Emergency council takes over at Long Preston

Craven Herald: Craven District Council chief executive Paul Shevlin Craven District Council chief executive Paul Shevlin

Urgent action has been taken to ensure the running of crisis-hit Long Preston Parish Council – although parishioners may still have to pay for a by-election.

All but one member of the council along with the clerk resigned last month following long term disputes with a small number of residents.

But because the resignations took place more than six months before the council is due to be re-elected in May, a by-election may have to be held – at a cost of more than £1,000 to the parish.

In the meantime, Craven District Council’s chief executive Paul Shevlin has used emergency powers to appoint four additional district councillors to join the last remaining member, Chris Moorby, on the parish council.

Mr Shevlin has also authorised £1,133 to be spent on the village Christmas lights.

At last week’s full council meeting, Craven District Council agreed to appoint councillors Carl Lis (Cons, Penyghent); David Staveley (Cons, Settle and Ribblebanks), and Richard Welch (Cons, Penyghent) onto the council.

In addition, councillors, who were concerned about the council being entirely Conservative, following the announcement that former independent Coun Moorby had joined the party, agreed to the addition of Independent councillor, John Kerwin-Davey, who is also Mayor of Skipton.

Coun Paul English, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he was not about to put up one of his own party members, but he was against the parish council being entirely led by Conservatives.

“I don’t envy anyone taking up the challenge and I did have no objection, but now it seems that Independent councillor Chris Moorby has joined the (Conservative) ranks, and I don’t think it is right to have four Conservative councillors,” he said.

“I don’t think even Robert Mugabe has the same mandate in Zimbabwe.”

Monitoring officer Gill Cooper advised members it was legal for the parish council to be made up of just one political group, but that it was a matter for the council to decide.

Coun Simon Myers (Cons), who asked whether a by-election would have to be held, was told by Mr Shevlin that the council was seeking a second opinion.

He said the resignations had taken place “on the cusp” and that councillors would be told as soon as the position was known.

But Coun Robert Heseltine (Ind) said as he understood it the laws surrounding elections were quite clear and there was a six-month cut-off point, even if some of the resigning councillors had completed paperwork inside the six months.

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