Nine ‘casual vacancies’ at collapsed Northamptonshire parish council as it gears up for by-election

Elections will be held to re-appoint nine members to Spratton Parish Council following a month of resignations.
Elections will be held to re-appoint nine members to Spratton Parish Council following a month of resignations.

An unprecedented emergency by-election is to be held in October to replace nine members of a Northamptonshire parish council who resigned in the space of a month.

The District Council has exercised special powers to enable a by-election to be held on October 22 for Spratton Parish Council.

The measures have been taken after nine councillors and the parish clerk resigned in one chaotic month for the quiet village off the A5199, after what appears to have been a disagreement over the way the village neighbourhood plan was drawn up.

Currently only one councillor, Paul Vellam, remains on the authority.

It will mark the first time Daventry District Council has ever made an order under section 39(4) of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which gives authorities powers to step in and hold elections when parish councils collapse.

Chief executive, Ian Vincent said: “This is a unique situation and we have taken these steps as the parish council is currently not a quorate and therefore unable to meet or conduct its normal business.

“We will provide residents with further details on the by-election arrangements as and when they are confirmed.”

As the parish council is no longer “quorate” it does not does not have the necessary number of members to enable it to “conduct normal business or convene meetings,” Daventry District Council says.

A Notice of election is set to be published today (September 17) and nominations will then be sought for the nine councillor vacancies.

However a letter posted on the village’s noticeboard this week, undersigned by former councillors Bill Blowfield, John Hunt, Ruaraidh McDonald-Walker, Mark Pacey and Jay Tindale, reveals more about why members left the parish council. It says: “Owing to a small minority who have, since the early stages of the drafting of the neighbourhood plan, consistently and without let-up made unfounded allegation against the parish council and individuals in it, we have decided enough is enough.”

The Spratton neighbourhood plan has been drawn up over the past three years and was meant to earmark suitable land for the village to expand by 35 homes.

It is understood there has been a long-running dispute over which parcel of land should be used, and in turn which landowners would potentially profit from a housing development.

However in a further twist this week, the Chronicle and Echo understands the parish’s only remaining councillor Paul Vellam has requested the neighbourhood plan be scrapped in its current form to allow for a “re-consultation” within the village.

As for the upcoming election, the deadline for councillor nominations is 4pm on Friday, September 25 and anyone interested in applying should contact Daventry District Council’s electoral services on 01327 302321 or email electoralservices@daventrydc.gov.uk.

The deadline for registering to vote for the by-election is midnight on Tuesday, October 6.

One High Street resident in Spratton said: “There has been a lot of criticism of this council over the recent years. I say if anyone thinks they can do better, they need to put up or shut up.”

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