Over the past two years Brightlingsea Town Council has been the subject of numerous postings via social media (primarily Harbour Users Facebook site / Brightlingsea Spotted Facebook site) in respect of its dealings with issues related to the Hard and charges for use of the harbour facilities. The council has no wish to engage in policy discussion via a facebook page as it is not a useful or accountable way to conduct business. It therefore wishes to make the following statement:-
Brightlingsea Town Council is accountable by due electoral process every four years; in between it holds monthly meetings and surgeries, and generally has a policy of open communication with residents on any issue. Councillors are volunteers who give up their time to listen to residents and work to improve the community we all live in. The council treats all residents with the same respect and fairness, and attempts to improve the quality of life for all residents, within obvious financial and legal limits.
In recent months the postings on Facebook sites have become more challenging and abusive, questioning the integrity, honesty and fitness for office of the council members. Discussions have labelled the council as ‘scum’ and stated that councillors are acting illegally or fraudulently to the point where allegations of criminal behaviour have been made. The council has repeatedly been accused of wasting council tax payers’ money on solicitors, particularly in complaints from the Harbour Users’ spokesperson, Mr Gary Humm.
The council has had to instruct solicitors in respect of various legal challenges mounted by Mr Humm and others, through solicitors’ letters, e-mails, challenging the council’s position regarding launching fees and latterly over historical fees in respect of use of the causeway.
The council has had no choice but to take legal advice in the face of such legal challenges.
This is not only to give Mr Humm’s representations a fair and proper hearing but also to protect the council from accusations of poor practice and to avoid possible further legal wrangling. Unfortunately residents who accuse the council of wasting money cannot have it both ways. If a proper legal response to a legitimate legal question is required then solicitors have to be instructed to provide this.
The issues currently under scrutiny are complex and involve old documentation, records, archives, the Land Registry and Essex County Council. Obtaining relevant information from these bodies has proved extraordinarily difficult and time consuming. The information currently available remains open to interpretation with the council awaiting final definitive statements from both Essex County Council and the Land Registry following communications going back and forth over many months.
The council has nothing to hide or fear from any disclosures regarding the hard and its history and will respond accordingly when full and final information has been received.
So far as Mr Humm’s particular issues are concerned he has made numerous personal visits to council offices, sent e-mails and letters in addition to which formal and informal discussions with councillors have taken place.
In the latest effort to resolve matters Mr Humm was offered and attended a mediation meeting in January 2016 where his representations were discussed by town councillors and with the Harbour Commissioners. As a result of those meetings actions were agreed that were accepted by Mr Humm as an appropriate response to his submissions. He makes no acknowledgement of these meetings or their positive outcome in any of his subsequent postings.
The Council will continue to respond respectfully to the people of Brightlingsea and work collectively for their best interests whilst working towards a long term solution for the benefit of all. It will not however continue to ignore unfounded and abusive allegations which challenge the integrity of its individual members.
1st April 2016