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Attleborough: Emails accessed through a freedom of information request show legality of parish poll result was discussed

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Emails accessed through a freedom of information request have shown that the possibility of overturning a parish poll result was explored.

The parish poll in March supported a referendum on whether all members of Attleborough Town Council should resign, with its legality later discussed by email.

While there is nothing to suggest the council supported the notion, the council’s solicitor, Nicolas Hancox, wrote in an email on March 23: “I hope Breckland’s lawyers agree with my opinion and all talk of a parish poll can be quashed.”

Attleborough Town Hall
Attleborough Town Hall

He added: “I’m sure Attleborough does not want to get into judicial review litigation.”

According to an email by town clerk Gina Lopes on March 20, Mr Hancox’s comments were based on his view that the poll was illegal.

She wrote: “Our solicitor advised prior to the meeting it was his understanding it was not legally convened.”

Rhodri Oliver, chairman of Breckland Council’s scrutiny committee, said he was “shocked”.

Cllr Oliver, who led the March meeting, said that preventing the public from having a vote was “outrageous”.

“It is wrong on so many levels – trying to stop the public having a say, spending more of residents’ money on fees and again carrying this all out in secret.”

He called for a full, independent investigation into the matter.

The parish poll and subsequent emails came in the midst of a tempestuous time for Attleborough Town Council, with factions of the group having been at odds with each other for several months.

In a speech made in an online meeting, just minutes before his replacement was announced, former mayor Tony Crouch spoke of his colleagues “attempting to destroy the council”, adding: “What goes around comes around.”

He has since been replaced by Philip Leslie, who spoke of his hope of ushering in a new era.

He said: “We need to turn it on its head and start again. It’s about openness, transparency, co-operation and a realisation of what we are trying to do.

“We’ve felt powerless lately as councillors.”

Whether the poll result will be implemented or not is unclear, with lockdown and a change in leadership having arrived since.

Speaking to the Diss Express last week, town councillor Taila Taylor made it clear that she would embrace any referendum.

“I fully support that,” she said. “To hand the power back to the people would be the most democratic way forward.”

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