What is going on, Mr Mayor?

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RESIDENTS are demanding reassurances after Brackley Town Council’s clerk and deputy quit in quick succession.

The resignations have prompted rumours of unrest in the council and come after two councillors, including long-serving Caryl Billingham, left earlier this year.

Now a former town councillor is among those demanding answers from the authority.

Last week Mayor Chris Cartmell issued a statement saying it was unfortunate the resignation of clerk Sue Crouch had coincided with the retirement of her deputy Irene Bennett.

But this week Mrs Bennett said she had resigned and would eventually be seeking part time work.

And while she expressed great affection for the role she has played in the town for more than 23 years, she added: “Circumstances and councillors have changed and I have seen five town clerks come and go and now feel that the time is right for me to leave also.”

In April former town councillor Caryl Billingham resigned citing a change in the culture of the council, growing politicalisation, and increasing confrontation. In the minutes of the April full council meeting Cllr Blake Stimpson’s reaction to Ms Billingham’s resignation was recorded as: ‘He sincerely hoped that all councillors when necessary could be assertive, but knew the difference between assertiveness and aggression, and that at all times they would be courteous to each other and staff.’

Former town councillor Peter Stocker said: “Since May 2011 when I lost my seat the rates increased by an all time high, a third of the councillors have gone, the town clerk has resigned and after so many years as the very backbone of Brackley Irene Bennett is going.

“Brackley has a very dark cloud over it and it’s nothing to do with the weather.”

And he was supported by Roman Estate resident Mike Langlois who said the culture at the council needs to change.

“Following the recent resignations of two councillors, including the long-serving and highly respected Caryl Billingham, I now learn of the departure of the town clerk and deputy town clerk which suggests there is some mysterious adverse influence shrouding Brackley Town Council,” he said.

“I look to the mayor for frank and honest reassurance and leadership during the remainder of this council year – hopefully with less ‘private and confidential’ meetings. What is going on Mr Mayor?”

Speaking to the Advertiser Mr Cartmell was keen to point out the statement referred to Mrs Bennett retiring from the council and not from worklife. A new statement was due to be issued last night following a meeting of the personnel group within the council.

Media release from Brackley Town Council dated Wednesday, July 4.

Cllr Chris Cartmell, Town Mayor of Brackley, announced today that after 23 years of service, Mrs Irene Bennett had decided to retire from the Council.

“It’s unfortunate that Mrs Bennett’s retirement co-incides with the sudden resignation of Mrs Sue Crouch, the Town Clerk. However, following Monday evening’s Full Council meeting, we have a clear forward plan and I and my fellow Councillors will ensure the smooth running of the Council’s adminstration until new appointments have been made. Naturally we are disappointed to be losing Mrs Bennett and Mrs Crouch, I’d like to take this opportunity of thanking them for their service to the Council and wishing them both well in the future.”

In a statement from Mrs Bennett she said: “I resigned from the Town Council on Monday 2nd July 2012 after 23.5 years. The work has been very varied, never knowing what the day will bring and life is never dull.

“Circumstances and councillors have changed and I have seen five Town Clerks come and go and now feet that the time is right for me to leave also.

“I have met some lovely, friendly people during my time with the Council and Brackley is a great town to work in. I hope to be able to keep in contact with many of the friends I have made and wish the Town, Town Council and its staff all the best for the future.

“I now plan to take some holiday and after that may look for a part time post, probably something totally different - I can’t imagine ‘idling’ my time at home. Who knows what the future will bring!”