A former Bembridge Parish Councillor, Alasdair Steane, recently submitted an application to the High Court for permission to apply for a Judicial Review after being removed as a Councillor. This permission was refused by Mr David Lock QC of the High Court on several grounds and associated costs were awarded to Bembridge Parish Council. Mr Steane challenged this decision and applied to have the matter heard in court. The hearing took place on Tuesday 16th March 2021 where further evidence was submitted from both sides including witness statements from Mrs Elisabeth White and Mr Nigel Maclean (former councillors). After reviewing the submissions (and further evidence) including the witness statements, the judge found in favour of the Parish Council.
Although the original costs were confirmed as awarded, costs are not awarded as standard procedure for a “review” (or appeal) of a claim and therefore for this part of the claim, Mr Steane has cost Bembridge Council Taxpayers a very substantial sum of money in defending this case.
Mr Steane (from the political group Open Bembridge) failed to attend council meetings within the statutory 6-month period which, as laid down in legislation – LGA 1972 Section 85(1) – is a requirement to ensure every Councillor continues to hold office. The Clerks of Bembridge Parish Council informed all Councillors that although “in person” meetings had been cancelled due to the pandemic, this did not affect the validity of the legislation. Accordingly, all Cllrs were advised to attend a meeting held remotely to ensure they did not fall foul of the six-month rule.
Mr Steane failed to attend this meeting and therefore, following legal advice, he was excluded from his role as a Councillor. A decision upheld by the recent findings of the high court.
This latest ruling in favour of Bembridge Parish Council follows a previous legal challenge against the Parish Council by former Councillor Madeleine Reeder (Open Bembridge) – her case was also dismissed and similarly costs were awarded to Bembridge Parish Council.
Unfortunately, these pernicious legal challenges mean that Bembridge Parish Council has had to divert focus and resources away from working for the community and also adjust budgets; this could have led to a rise in precept, something nobody wants, especially at this very difficult time.
However, after a lot of hard work and prioritisation of existing and future projects’ together with some strategic forward planning and good housekeeping, Bembridge Parish Council is delighted to announce that for the year 2021/2022 there will be no precept rise to the residents of Bembridge.
The good news doesn’t stop there. The Village Hall roof and associated works project has been completed thus preserving an outstanding community asset, securing it for use by future generations.
This project could not have come to fruition had it not been for the sale of one of the assets (a misleading petition was lodged by Open Bembridge to prevent this) and with the overwhelming support of the community and a majority Council vote the decision was made. The benefits to the users and visitors to this community hub will be felt for years to come.
Bembridge Parish Council is responsible for and takes pride in providing community services and enhancing the lives of our residents and visitors to Bembridge; the numerous awards are a testament to this.
We look forward to new and exciting challenges ahead.