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Town council hits back at accusations of ‘secrecy’ and ‘disarray’ after resignations

PUBLISHED: 12:43 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:54 23 June 2020

Sheringham mayor Madeleine Ashcroft (right) with deputy mayor Liz Withington. The town council has pledged to put past problems behind it and move forward in 'unity'. Photo: ARCHANT

Sheringham mayor Madeleine Ashcroft (right) with deputy mayor Liz Withington. The town council has pledged to put past problems behind it and move forward in 'unity'. Photo: ARCHANT

Archant

A town council hit by two shock resignations and accusations of being in “disarray” has pledged to forge ahead with its plans to “rebuild and restructure”.

Sheringham Community Centre, which is now the headquarters of the town council.
Photo: ARCHANTSheringham Community Centre, which is now the headquarters of the town council. Photo: ARCHANT

After the escalation of a disagreement between two local coronavirus support groups led to deputy mayor Liz Withington being targeted with abuse on Facebook and a sticker campaign calling for her resignation, Sheringham Town Council was accused of “hushing up” issues and making decisions “behind closed doors” by councillor Jon Payne.

His sudden resignation was followed by the stepping down of a second councillor, Neil Espin, who claimed he had been put in a position which left him with ‘nowhere else to go’.

However, in spite of recent setbacks, town mayor Madeleine Ashcroft urged local people to “focus on the positives” and look to the future of their “vibrant community”.

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“Yes, we have had problems,” she said. “But I do think we are a united town council and we have made enormous progress on many projects.”

These included relocating to Sheringham Community Centre, moving the town’s art collection to the seafront museum, collaborating with residents and businesses to produce a town plan, introducing a climate change action plan, funding youth projects, and bringing together more than 20 stakeholders to formulate and develop a plan to improve the town centre.

While some schemes had been put on hold as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a town council-backed aid group had successfully set up a network of volunteers providing support to a large number of local people, Mrs Ashcroft added.

Councillors had also embraced online meetings, with members of the public given access to proceedings and only issues with commercial or legal sensitivity discussed in private.

With reference to the abuse suffered by Mrs Withington, a statement from the town council said: “Sheringham Town Council cannot condone the extreme behaviour and appalling public abuse and harassment from a vociferous minority, especially where their targets have been individuals who have committed so much to the ongoing process of rejuvenation, modernisation and support of our town.”

The statement added that councillors were committed to taking the community into the future under the chairmanship of Mrs Ashcroft and the professional guidance of acting town clerk Kelly Cooper and her staff.


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