PEACE has broken out in Henley-in-Arden - but for how long? That was the 64,000-dollar question being asked last night (Wednesday) after the parish council and one of its members announced that they had settled their legal differences.
Independent councillor Bill Leech and Beaudesert and Henley Parish Council issued a joint statement saying that the legal proceedings brought by Cllr Leech against the council had been resolved.
This was the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between Cllr Leech and the parish council, a body which had already been described as “dysfunctional” at a Stratford District Council standards and ethics committee.
The statement pointed out that Cllr Leech had initiated the proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of restrictions that had been imposed on him by the council. It added: “Without any admission of wrongdoing and in order to save further public funds being expended the council has now agreed to lift those restrictions and to make a contribution to the costs incurred by Cllr Leech.
“All councillors, including Cllr Leech, have repeated assurances that they will abide by the code of conduct for councillors. Both the council and Cllr Leech are pleased that this matter has been resolved and look forward to focusing on serving the interests of the people of Beaudesert and Henley in the New Year.”
Yesterday, asked by the Herald if this was now the end of hostilities, Cllr Leech said: “I hope this is the end of hostilities, but the Henley Independents are still keen to keep spending under control.”
According to Cllr Leech, the total costs incurred as a result of the legal proceedings were around £15,000, of which his—which the council has agreed to pay—amounted to £8,000.
When the Herald suggested that it was ironic—given the demand by Cllr Leech and his colleagues to cut council spending—that the public would be footing the £15,000 legal bill, Cllr Leech said mischievously: “I expect residents will raise the matter at the annual Henley Parish Assembly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they petition the district auditor to surcharge the councillors who instigated the illegal ban on me.”
Cllr George Mattheou, the parish council vice-chairman, told the Herald yesterday that he was currently in the process of digesting the facts. He would then make a statement. But he added: “My understanding from the solicitors is that we refrain from scoring points. . .”
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