AN investigation into the conduct of Badsworth Parish Council has branded it “dysfunctional” and warned it could be abolished.
A letter from Wakefield Council’s legal department, published on the parish council website, told chairman Coun Brenda Graham that complaints of bullying against current and former village councillors were “tit for tat”.
The letter said “the level of complaints suggest the parish council could be considered to be dysfunctional” and that while the standards sub-committee would not wish to see the parish council abolished, the “flow of complaints suggest it will not improve” and such action could be considered by the committee when it reconvened in October.
Bernadette Livesey, Wakefield Council service director for legal and governance, said: “Badsworth Parish Council needs to ensure that employment issues, which includes allegations of bullying, are resolved by the parish council.
“Wakefield Council’s role is to ensure that all members of the parish council comply with its code of conduct.”
Allegations of bullying arose at the Wakefield authority’s meeting two weeks ago after district councillors had to step in and co-opt a fifth councillor onto the parish council after the smaller authority failed to select another member at a meeting last month.
A report to Wakefield Council recommended approving the election of resident Zoran Novakovic onto the parish council, to ensure it maintained a five-councillor quota as set out in the Local Government Act.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Steve Tulley, said: “There’s an ongoing investigation into bullying in Badsworth Parish Council.
“I hope the co-option of the fifth councillor will make things operate correctly. There’s a lot of issues that need dealing with.”
Speaking to the Express after the meeting, district councillor for Badsworth Richard Malloy said the controversy among parish councillors began two years ago over the building of a nursery on Main Street.
He said following the building’s approval several councillors resigned, including chairman Janet Sumpter.
Coun Malloy said: “I know there has been bullying taking place among councillors and I would like to see everyone working together to discuss contentious issues and settle them.”
Clare Baxter, parish council clerk, has lodged a complaint with the district council.
A letter to Mrs Baxter from Miss Livesey, published on the parish council website, said: “The information you submitted in support of your complaint suggest it is well founded.
“The sub-committee is concerned regarding the long-term stability of the parish council and hopes the council and its individual members begin to behave in a manner befitting their public status.”
Coun Graham said: “There have been problems in Badsworth Parish Council but it’s still ongoing so I can’t comment. I am pleased we’re back to five members.”
Newly-appointed Coun Novakovic, who has been a Badsworth resident for 30 years, said he didn’t “know enough about the problems” but hoped that the parish council could move forward for the sake of the village.