‘WHAT price democracy?’ was the subject of a debate at Malpas Parish Council.
Ex-parish councillor Nevil Eaton has been criticised for calling by-elections when a member has stepped down – which cost £950 in the most recent poll when Pauline Plumb was victorious.
The issue has arisen again because Cllr Linda Egan has resigned with Mr Eaton again calling for a vote, although any by-election would coincide with the European elections meaning nil cost to the parish.
Many members, including chairman Russ McGinn, would prefer to co-opt members in between full parish elections, which happen every four years.
However, others believe the 11 members must be democratically elected, as far as possible, if the body is to have legitimacy in the community.
Ex-city councillor and former parish chairman Cllr Keith Ebben said the village should be told the price of by-elections.
He told the monthly meeting: “Nevil Eaton is calling an election every time there is a vacancy and do people realise how much it is costing the people of Malpas?”
He added: “Most people over a period of time are formally elected, it is just in the interim period where they are co-opted.”
Deputy chairman Chris Whitehurst said his understanding was that Mr Eaton’s love of elections was because he feared the authority might coopt “a certain individual” with whom he was “unhappy”.
But Cllr Adrian Waddelove said it had to be accepted there “is a cost to elections”.
He added: “This could have been a co-opted council in other circumstances. There is no issue about it being a co-opted council, but it could have been.”
Chairman Cllr McGinn told The Chronicle: “I do of course support the right of the individuals to call such elections, but would like to point out the potential cost to Malpas rate payers.
“If all those elections were contested and were publicised with polling cards, the cost would be £4,500 – well over a quarter of our entire budget for the year. Luckily, two of those elections have been uncontested, but I'm keen to inform the public of the costs and the resulting consequence, that good causes in Malpas will receive less money this year.”
An unrepentant Mr Eaton said he was not bothered he was the subject of controversy. He responded: “The people of the village should pick them, not just any Tom, Dick or Harry.”