VOTE: Was it correct for the district council to impose new members on Eastergate Parish Council?

A crisis at Eastergate Parish Council has seen four new members imposed on it in a unique move.

The councillors have been appointed by Arun District Council to revive the parish council after a series of resignations.

The decision is believed to be the first of its kind since the district council was formed in 1973.

It was agreed unanimously by district councillors in spite of a plea by one of the last parish council members to let them sort out the situation.

The immediate arrival of the four district councillors – John Charles, Jean Goad, Stephen Haymes and Dougal Maconachie – will allow Eastergate council to function again. It had been halted by an unprecedented seven resignations within three months.

This had reduced it to just two councillors when three are needed to enable it to be quorate and fulfil its legal obligations.

Arun’s leader, Gillian Brown, said: “Eastergate Parish Council can’t proceed with any co-option, even if people want to be councillors, or carry out any other business.

“We have to go through this legal process to make sure things are done in the right way. The temporary appointment of the four councillors is the correct thing to do.”

Cllrs Charles, Mrs Goad and Maconachie, who represent Barnham on the district council, and Cllr Haymes (Yapton) were selected for their knowledge of the Eastergate area. They will serve for six months.

Cllr Michael Clifton, one of the previous parish councillors, told Arun’s members he believed a better solution would be to accept the four residents who were applying to join Eastergate council.

“We believe we would be back to quorate again within seven to 14 days,” he said.

The alternative would be a voting procedure which would stretch into next year. He said: “To have this when we are rather busy with our neighbourhood local plan strikes us as backward.”

The four Arun district councillors became Eastergate Parish Council members following last Wednesday’s vote.

The parish council, now it is able to function again, will call an extraordinary meeting before the end of this month.

This will see a chairman and vice-chairman chosen to enable it to restart.

The council will issue a notice of election for parishioners to call for a poll. If ten of them agree, candidates will be sought for the seven vacancies.

An election will take place early next year if enough hopefuls come forward. If not, those who apply will join the council to be joined by co-opted members.