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South Molton councillor fears authority could be seen as a 'club for the rich and retired'

By NDJJoseph  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

South Molton Town Councillor Matthew Bushell

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A TOWN councillor has warned South Molton’s council risk being “seen as a club for the rich, retired, or those with fortunes to speculate”.

The town’s youngest councillor Matthew Bushell, who did not wish to reveal his age, made the remarks during a council meeting.

Mr Bushell raised concerns that important meetings might have been “strategically” arranged for the daytime to exclude Mr Bushell, who works during the day.

Mr Bushell is a member of the council’s policy committee which meets during the day.

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The remarks were strongly denied by the town’s mayor Stephen White, who maintains that all meetings are scheduled democratically.

Speaking at a council meeting earlier this month, Mr Bushell said: “It would seem to me that meetings should be made attendable to all.

“I would hate to see this council be brought into disrepute by the suggestion voting has been swung by the strategic positioning of committee meetings.

“I would also hate for people to be discouraged from standing for election because they are employed.

“We must be transparent and not be seen as a club for the rich, or retired, or those with fortunes to speculate.”

South Molton’s Mayor, Stephen White, refuted the claim. He said: “Mr Bushell is one of 12 town councillors. Not all councillors can attend all the committees, councillors only sit on committees which they know they can attend.

“When Mr Bushell was interviewed to come on to the council as a co-opted member, he was informed that not all meetings took place in the evenings, some committees met during the day, which he accepted.”

David Worden, district and town councillor, said: “Everything possible should be done to ensure that no one is excluded from a committee because of the time it meets.

“Many residents in the town are employed during the day and it is important they have the opportunity of becoming councillors and can attend meetings and have their say.”

According to Mr White on average the town council has 49 evening meetings a year, possibly more when including informal meetings and only 15 daytime meetings. Mr White said: “Democracy prevails when it suits him [Mr Bushell], but when things don’t go his way he’d rather make unfounded accusations about the council than get on with the business of improving South Molton.”

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