A TOWN council has been accused of a “premeditated campaign” which has seen its clerk suspended for almost eight months. 

Leigh Town Council has been told by long-serving councillor, Carole Mulroney, that its treatment of Helen Symmons after she was suspended last year is “inhumane”. 

However, council leaders insist the “absolutely correct” process is being followed.

The town council has also confirmed to the Echo three staff members have been suspended from the community centre, but would not say why.

It came after months of concern over the operation of the town council.

Echo: Mrs Mulroney pictured at a protest outside Leigh Community Centre last month.Mrs Mulroney pictured at a protest outside Leigh Community Centre last month. (Image: Ben Shahrabi)A meeting on March 26 was also postponed as the locum clerk was unable to attend.

But the postponement  sparked outrage as previous meetings have been held without a clerk present.

In a hard-hitting letter to the Echo, Leigh town and Southend city councillor Carole Mulroney said: “Our long-standing and long-suffering clerk has been subjected to a premeditated campaign.

“She has been suspended for nearly eight months. 

“It’s inhumane.”

The Tory-led town council says it has faced “intimidating and abusive behaviour” from residents and councillors. Security officers were seen at the council’s last meeting, on March 26, which had to be postponed.

Ms Mulroney insists there were “no threats and no aggressive behaviour, just some disgruntled people and a few boos” at the meeting. 

She said: “All assembled awaited the opening of the meeting . The chairman advised there was no clerk so the meeting would not go ahead.   Yet they have been carrying on without clerks at meetings for months. 

“I have pointed out that this is against our council’s rules. Not surprisingly on a very wet and cold night 100-plus people were annoyed, but there were no threats, no aggressive behaviour, just as you would expect some disgruntled people and a few boos. It was a farce and every meeting is a farce.”


Echo: Chairman Bernard Arscott says the administration is 'willing' to discuss 'constructive ideas'.Chairman Bernard Arscott says the administration is 'willing' to discuss 'constructive ideas'. (Image: Ben Shahrabi)

However, chairman Bernard Arscott insists the cancellation was not a “deliberate act” and was necessary due to the need for “legal advice” as binding decisions on standing orders were being made.

He said: “The locum was ill.  We did try to find someone to stand in, but the clerk is not just a minute taker, they give legal advice too.

“Due to the nature of discussions over standing orders, we felt it would be best to have a qualified expert clerk. Unfortunately, conspiracy theorists think this was a concerted and planned attack. It obviously wasn’t.”

'Correct process is being followed'

COUNCIL leaders say the “absolutely correct” process is being followed after a long-standing town clerk and staff members were suspended. 

Chairman of Leigh Town Council, Conservative councillor Bernard Arscott says the conclusion of the disciplinary process, which has lasted for months, should come “in the very near future”.

Mr Arscott insists the council’s human resources adviser has been recommended by the Essex Association of Local Councils and is “absolutely following the correct processes”.

He added: “It’s certainly not inhumane.”

Mr Arscott confirmed three staff members had been suspended, with two others “deciding to join them”, although the council office remains open.

Mr Arscott says the Conservative administration at the town council, based at the council offices in Elm Road, Leigh, would be “willing” to discuss “constructive ideas” but claims none have yet been brought forward.

He said: “There is a vocal and vociferous minority who just want to cause trouble.

“I appreciate there are residents attending who have a genuine interest and concern.”