Shock resignation triggers rush election at troubled parish council

ormesby village signphoto:rob allanson17/05/2005

Andy Grant, the new chairman of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council says he wants to 'move forward as one' after a problematic period.

A parish council meeting was thrown into disarray after the sudden announcement the chairman had resigned.

Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council has been tinged with controversy over bullying claims, and more recently a bid to split the parish.

On Tuesday the clerk Philip Stone told members Christine Lee had, that day, handed in her notice and that the meeting could not proceed until another chair was elected.

Councillors variously said it was "a shock" and "terrible news".

One member of the public was heard to tag it "a stitch up".

Around 30 residents from across the joint parish had turned out to discuss plans for 665 homes in West Caister.

The clerk said the meeting would have to end unless another chair was immediately returned by a vote.

Former chair Kathryn Wendt said: "Do we not have time to digest this information? We have not had a chance to even think about it."

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and waste. Pic: Norfolk Conserva

Andy Grant is the new chairman of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council after the resignation of Christine Lee. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Flustered members attempted to elect a temporary chairman and Andy Grant was proposed and seconded.

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Because of that the clerk said there then had to be a vote, which was carried.

As there was no mechanism to allow for a temporary chair, Mr Grant's position was confirmed as permanent.

No reason was given for Mrs Lee's resignation.

Later in the meeting during a debate about a proposal to split the parishes Geoff Freeman said: "It breaks my  heart to see the state we have been brought to.

"Mrs Lee was superb and we have made that lady ill."

Jim Shrimplin said a letter should be sent to Mrs Lee thanking her for her service, as well as some flowers.

"I  understand she has not been in the best of health," he added.

After the vote Mr Grant, a borough and county councillor, swapped places with Mike Cheetham, who had been acting as chair.

Accepting the position Mr Grant said: "I look  forward  to progressing the council bearing in mind all the problems we have had in the past and move forward as one."

Previous meetings have heard about "divisive dialogue" between Ormesby and Scratby amid claims of "discrimination and victimisation" to do with the make-up  of committees.