Ros Garrett, the Deputy Mayor, resigned from the Town Council last month, and was replaced by David Gittins, who was elected by a vote among the councillors. I honestly wasn't expecting any further resignations, but I've just had confirmation that both Sue Campbell-Felgate and Rhona Muirhead have also resigned. Both of them were among the new intake of councillors at the last election, which means that four of the new councillors have now resigned (Richard Evans resigned due to ill health some time ago). Both Rhona and Sue came on to the council full of enthusiasm and full of plans for the future of Hay, so it's very sad to see them decide that they can no longer continue.
Here's an extract from Sue Campbell-Felgate's resignation letter, which has been circulated by email via Hay Together. Both she and Rhona Muirhead have written open letters, which they want to be publicised:
"Composition of the Council: At the last elections, the first in a number of years, there was a 54% turnout of voters in Hay, a magnificent result. Five new councillors were elected to join the council, and garnered between them 2,900 votes. Six standing councillors were re-elected, garnering between them 1,900 votes. This was a clear mandate for change from our electorate, who through their vote was asking for fresh viewpoints and a greater breadth of opinion to be represented. Since then, two of the new councillors have resigned; one through ill health and the other for reasons that have not been publicly shared. In both cases the council has elected replacements who have previously served on the council and therefore do not represent the fresh people/fresh ideas/ fresh energy that was mandated by the election results.
I do not think that the electorate’s wish for change has been honoured."
She goes on to criticise the poor level of debate within the council, the lack of openness to change and to working with other groups in the community and the lack of adequate research into the issues facing the council.
Rhona Muirhead expands on this in her letter of resignation:
"There is also a culture of not challenging the County Council and not engaging fully with some of the problems which have significant and far-reaching effects on the town, such as: the poor state of the primary school building which should have been tackled decades ago; the lack of appropriate, sustainable community facilities; the asset-stripping of Hay properties; the proposed supermarket development; the appalling Hospital re-organisation; the phone mast application; and the lack of involvement in the Local Development Plans. And because there is an historical lack of communication, the people continue to feel uninvolved. "
Ellie Spencer, one of the other new councillors who was elected last time, is concerned about the democratic process now that there are two new vacancies on the Council, and says in her email which has been circulated by Hay Together:
"The vacancies these resignations create can be filled in either of two ways - by election or by co-option. There will only be an election if a) more than 10 electors request an election and b) there are more candidates than vacancies.
If there is no election called, candidates submit an application to be co-opted to the council. This is considered by the council at the next meeting, and any choice is made by vote.....
I believe that the two new vacancies on the council should be filled through proper democratic process, and that existing councillors should not be allowed to 'cherry pick' their favourite candidates.
Two things must happen now. We need to find at least two candidates and we need ten signatories to a letter requesting an election."
If anyone would like to add their voices to Ellie's call for a fresh election, please contact her at email@example.com with your name, address and phone number so she can contact you to arrange to collect your signature.