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Village left without a parish councillor over admin error
A PARISH council has been disbanded after every parish councillor failed to fill out their acceptance forms correctly.
An election for Dedham Parish Council was held on May 3, and nine of the ten candidates were elected to represent the picturesque village.
However, by law, each councillor has to sign a declaration of acceptance of office, either before or at the first meeting of the council, which was held on May 9.
None of the forms were completed though, and now the council has been declared defunct.
Roy Laverick, who was chairman of the parish council, said a number of elements had conspired against them.
Mr Laverick, who had been a parish councillor for nine years, said: “It is embarrassing. The first meeting after the election was extremely long, finishing at 11pm. There was a lot of business, it was a new council and it was also the parish assembly. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, our parish clerk Jean Flewin forgot to get the formal acceptances. She is an experienced clerk and is acutely embarrassed.”
Mr Laverick said the oversight had been compounded because Mrs Flewin had then gone on holiday.
He added: “There is provision for a delay, but it has to be formally minuted and this was not.”
Mrs Flewin said: “It was my fault. I made a mistake and I have sent a letter of apology to every councillor.”
However, Sheila Beeton, one of the newly-elected councillors, said the village had been let down.
Mrs Beeton, who was head of human resources at the University of East London before retiring, said she had urged the council to pay to join the Essex Association of Local Councils, but was told it was too expensive.
She said she had been given no guidance as a newcomer and it was only through speaking to the Essex Association of Local Councils that she realised there was a problem.
She said: “I think it is pretty deplorable. You can’t expect a parish council to operate like a large organisation. It doesn’t have the resources.
“But there are certain basic statutory obligations and I think the people of Dedham deserve better.”
Andrew Weavers, Colchester Council’s legal services manager and monitoring officer, said: “This is the first time this has happened, in my experience.
“Normally, it would be one or two councillors. In this instance, it is all nine.”
The parish council has now been officially informed it is defunct and Mr Weavers said it was hoped a new election would be held as soon as possible.
The cost of the election will fall on the parish, estimated to be in the region of £1,000. It is hoped the election can be held in the next few weeks, as no parish council business can be conducted until a new council is formed. Mr Laverick said he hoped the cost of an election could be avoided if only nine candidates stood.