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Wednesday, 24th March 2010

Councillors resign as dispute comes to light

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Published Date:
10 February 2010
THREE town councillors, including former mayor Nick Ellwood, have resigned after a six-month behind-the-scenes dispute with staff spilled out into public this week.
Cllr Ellwood and his wife Maddie quit on Monday afternoon. Cllr John Glover, who led the Hailsham Independents, has also resigned, saying the group's dwindling numbers left his position untenable.
It means three of the 24 town council seats are now
In his resignation letter, seen by the Gazette, Cllr Ellwood claimed 'scathing comments' from unnamed town council staff, following a row over their pension scheme and possible redundancies, had caused him 'a great deal of stress' and forced his hand.
But current mayor Ian Haffenden, pictured top right, blasted Cllr Ellwood's letter as 'highly selective'.
He accused Cllr Ellwood of trying to force through the money-saving changes in spite of opposition from other members of the Hailsham Independents group.
Cllr Haffenden, his wife Debbie and son Tom have all now quit the Hailsham Independents group but will remain on the council as individual independents.
Eight town councillors have now left the group since November, sparking Cllr Glover's decision to resign from the council. It now means no group or party has overall control.
Cllr Ellwood was on the town council for nearly 17 years and was mayor between 2006 and 2008. He will remain a Wealden District Councillor. In his letter to town clerk Liz Jones, Cllr Ellwood claimed he met resistance from staff when he suggested restructuring and switching pension schemes to allow the council to save money and freeze its share of the tax bill.
He said, "I stated that, if we could not find the savings, then the council would have to look at cutting services, which may lead to redundancies. (This) led to some scathing comments."
Cllr Ellwood said the row dated back to August, when he put forward suggestions on how the council office could be restructured.
This plan, he said, would have led to some posts being made redundant in order to reduce the council tax burden.
Cllr Ellwood also revealed unnamed staff members were behind the complaints of misconduct against him currently being looked into by Standards For England.
He added, "All through this, despite these internal pressures, I have diligently undertaken my elected duties as chairman of finance, policy and resources.
"For the second year running, I have been instrumental in getting a zero increase in (Hailsham Town Council's share of) the council tax.
"It is still my belief that the administrative side of the council is over-staffed and not cost-effective and therefore is a financial over-burden on Hailsham residents."
However, Cllr Haffenden refuted Cllr Ellwood's version of events and explained his decision to leave the Hailsham Independents.
In a statement to the Gazette, the mayor said, "There has been an irretrivable loss in our faith that the standards, principles and codes underpinning the actions of the group are shared by all group members."
Town clerk Liz Jones said, "It is not possible for the town council to comment on the resignation of councillors Nick and Maddie Ellwood at this time, due to an imposed legal restriction of confidentiality on myself and other members of staff in respect of the ongoing investigation by Standards for England into the conduct of Councillor Nick Ellwood."
A notice of vacancy will be posted for each of the vacant seats. If within 14 days from the date of the notice, a request for an election is made in writing by 10 electors of the ward, an election will be held.
Otherwise the vacancy will be filled by co-option.
The resignations cap a remarkable collapse of the Hailsham Independents. A few months ago, it controlled Hailsham Town Council with 16 of the 24 seats.
But five councillors – Geoff and Mary Rowe, Robin and Carolyn Kempe and Bryan Burchmore – left the group to form the New Independents in November.
The resignations of Cllrs Nick and Maddie Ellwood and John Glover, and the decision of Cllrs Ian, Debbie and Tom Haffenden to stand as sole independents, leaves it now with just five seats.

Hailsham Town Council has 24 members, split into four wards.
Cllr Nick Ellwood (South and West ward), Cllr Maddie Ellwood and Cllr John Glover (both Central and North ward) have resigned.
A by-election will be held in a ward if 10 electors request one within 14 days. Otherwise the vacancy will be filled by co-option.
Cllrs Ian, Debbie and Tom Haffenden have all resigned from the Hailsham Independents group, meaning the party no longer has overall control of the town council.
Current political split: Hailsham Independents 5 seats, New Independents 5 seats, Liberal Democrats 5 seats, Conservatives 2 seats, others, 4 seats.

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  • Last Updated: 10 February 2010 8:51 AM
  • Source: n/a
  • Location: Eastbourne

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