Heated debate over Ottery budget
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A suggestion that West Hill representatives should ‘abstain’ from discussions over how Ottery Town Council’s budget is spent caused a heated debate this week.
Councillor Paul Bartlett, chairman of the authority’s finance committee, made the proposal because the village is due to break away from the parish and become independent next year.
However, he subsequently withdrew his comments after they were described as ‘outrageous’ - with one West Hill member branding them ‘an attack on the integrity’ of village representatives.
The subject was an item on the agenda of Monday’s meeting. West Hill Parish Council is due to be created in April or May next year.
Cllr Bartlett raised concerns over Ottery Town Council’s budget being slashed by £50,000 and potential capping from central government. He told colleagues: “This is likely to have a knock-on effect in that the town council may also be unable to take on the services that Devon County Council and East Devon District Council are trying to transfer to parish and town councils - as the reduced budget and potential capping are likely not to allow us to do so.
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“The creation of West Hill Parish Council will undoubtedly have financial implications for the remaining parishioners of the parish.”
West Hill ward member Cllr Christopher Hall responded by saying the involvement of the village’s representatives in such talks was no different than discussing other financial matters unconnected to it. He added: “What you are suggesting is that the four West Hill councillors should not have anything to do with the running of Ottery Town Council because they may be part of another council next year. I think it’s an attack on their integrity. It’s an attack on their ability to fulfil their duty properly and it’s absolutely outrageous.”
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Fellow ward member Cllr Jessica Bailey added: “I have no reason to try to influence Ottery’s accounts next year. Maybe, I might have a point that might be worth considering without trying to cause mischief to Ottery’s accounts or alter the future of Ottery.”
Cllr Paul Carter, a Town ward member, added it was ‘perfectly logical’ for all councillors to continue working together until the split next year.
Cllr Bartlett withdrew his proposal.