Desborough town councillors who did not declare library interest in time apologise

The councillors have apologies but have queried Kettering Council's insistence that councillors who are also library trustees cannot vote on library matters.
The councillors have apologies but have queried Kettering Council's insistence that councillors who are also library trustees cannot vote on library matters.

A group of Desborough town councillors have apologised for failing to declare on time their interest in a library charity that the town council gave funding to.

Chair Cllr Jean Read, Cllr Gil Holmes, Cllr Linda Burnham, Cllr Steve Draycott and former councillor Bill McElhinney all said their sorries at the town council meeting last week (Sept 19) for failing to declare on time that they were trustees of the Desborough Community and Library Hub.

The apology comes on the orders of an investigation commissioned by Kettering Council after a complaint from a resident concerned there was a conflict of interest.

The councillors did not declare their interest in the library until December 2018 despite being library trustees many months prior.

At the meeting last night Chair Jean Read said they had not declared an interest because after being elected to the council in May 2018 they were extremely busy and did not have a town clerk to remind them that it was something they needed to do.

And last Thursday the councillors decided to not stand by another order from Kettering Council to revoke the special dispensation given to the councillors by the town clerk which meant they could vote on matters concerning the library.

Instead they voted to defer the consideration until they have further clarification from the Kettering authority.

Giving her apology a visibly upset Cllr Burnham said she had not purposely failed to declare an interest at the correct time.

She said: “I do want to say how upset this has made me. To be made to feel like a criminal is rotten to the core. To be accused of doing things for monetary gain is heartbreaking. Never have I done anything that can be construed as self serving.”

The library funding matter has caused much fallout among the council and also has been fought out on social media.

In the summer the town council agreed to give a £120,000 grant to the library charity to help it purchase the reading venue in High Street. It has also given a £30,000 grant to help with running costs.

The library, which will be purchased with support from the Maud Elkington Trust, will belong to the charity.

However some town councillors were concerned that the full details of a peppercorn rent proposal from Northamptonshire County Council were not disclosed to the town council or the residents.

The library saga follows a few years of problems within Desborough town council. In July 2016 a parish poll passed a vote of no confidence in the council following a 400 per cent council tax precept rise. In May 2018 a whole new set of councillors were elected.

Cllr Bill McElhinney stood down from the town council last month and there will be a by election in the Loatland ward on Thursday, October 24.

At the meeting Mr McElhinney said he had decided to step down due to his wife’s health.