Furious residents have called for Hemsworth Town Council to be abolished after the authority’s annual meeting was abandoned amid “disgraceful” scenes.
Police had to step in to restore order at the meeting on Thursday, April 18 after Labour council leader Tony Upson called a halt to proceedings because of “disruptions”. The meeting, at the Bullenshaw Road community centre, ended before the 100 residents present had the chance to ask questions.
His decision sparked anger among householders and independent councillors, who have now started a petition calling for the council to be axed and the town to come under the direct control of Wakefield Council.
Graham Hirst, of Moorfield Crescent, said: “The Labour-led council under the leadership of Tony Upson delivered one of the most disgraceful spectacles I have ever witnessed.
“He casually mentioned members of the public were not allowed to ask any questions on a range of issues due to some sort of judicial review. The public shouted their disapproval and he didn’t like the experience. Without any warning he closed the meeting and walked out with the clerk and the rest of the Labour councillors.”
Coun Upson told the Express this week: “I closed the meeting because of disruptions during my speech about the council’s progress.
“I felt intimidated. I was told before the meeting that a small group of people were going to try to take over and prevent the council from explaining matters. This group didn’t want the public to hear the council’s message and constantly interrupted proceedings.”
Residents in Hemsworth received council tax bills last month showing the town council precept was increasing by 58.2 per cent in the next financial year. Tina Pattison, town clerk, said the precept could not be debated at Thursday’s meeting because of a pending judicial review requested by the authority’s independent councillors.
She said: “We took advice from the Yorkshire Local Councils Association before the meeting and were told that because of the proposed judicial review we could not allow the precept to be debated.”
But independent councillor Jim Kenyon said the town council had not yet been served with official court papers about the judicial review, so there was no reason why the precept could not have been discussed.
He added: “The chairman had a duty to answer the public’s questions but he walked out with no explanation.
“After he left, a vote of no confidence was taken in him, the clerk and the town council and we have also decided to launch a petition calling for the dissolution of the town council.”
Letters and calls flooded in to the Express office this week from angry residents.
Peter Sykes, 63, of Lowfield Road, said: “It was absolutely disgraceful that Labour councillors abandoned the meeting. I had several questions I wanted to ask about precepts. It wasn’t democratic – you can’t have a meeting for people to ask questions and then close it because you don’t want to answer them.”
Coun Upson said residents could make an appointment to see him to discuss any council matters.
To abolish a town council a petition would need to be signed by 10 per cent of an area’s electorate, which is 1065 residents in Hemsworth. Wakefield Council would then need to carry out a review within 12 months.
For more reactions from residents please see letters pages 10 and 11 in this week’s Express.