"Inefficient, ineffective and quite embarrassing": town clerk rips into Morecambe Town Council

February 07, 2020

Two council officers threatened to resign on a night of chaos and controversy at Morecambe Town Hall.

Bob Bailey, clerk to Morecambe Town Council, and his assistant Nicola Kitchen both publicly criticised the way the council is run during an explosive public meeting on Thursday night.

Mr Bailey, who officially took over as clerk in December 2019 after a period as acting clerk, described the council's budget process as "inefficient, ineffective, and quite embarrassing".

And Nicola Kitchen said she had received "substandard and appalling duty of care" from the council as an employer.

Mr Bailey's comments came after a chaotic debate between town councillors over their 2020/21 budget.

He said: "You should have a finance committee made up of members, which proposes one budget only and that should come to council for debate, instead of this nonsense of a meeting where you are arguing.

"The important thing for me is this town. I've been on this council for three months and I see no progress at all. It's not about blame, it's about working together for this community.

"These problems have happened since 2009 (when the council was formed) and unless members wake up, they will continue to happen. But I won't be here. I will walk away."

Mr Bailey later clarified his comments to Beyond Radio, saying he hadn't resigned but was considering his future.

Later, the assistant clerk said she would also resign if Mr Bailey decided to leave, because of the way she had been treated by some involved with the council.

"I couldn't have coped without Bob's understanding," she said.

"A professional man such as Bob and they dismiss his advice. If Bob submits his resignation, I will also submit mine."

Labour councillor Janice Hanson said Nicola was "courageous" in standing up in front of the council to air her views and said she hoped both she and Mr Bailey would stay on in their roles.

Thursday night's meeting began with long-standing Morecambe Bay Independent (MBI) councillor June Ashworth being voted in as the new chair of Morecambe Town Council.

It was announced that her predecessor, fellow MBI councillor Tricia Heath, had stepped down due to ill-health.

Then, during a section of the meeting where members of the public can speak, former councillor David Brayshaw asked why part of the minutes of an extraordinary meeting held in January had been removed from the town council's website.

Coun Ashworth said: "It is an exempt item. They should not have been on the website."

Mr Bailey said he believed the minutes should have been made public and had advised councillors of this.

The controversy was over Morecambe Town Council paying towards planters on Morecambe promenade, after it had been claimed at a meeting in 2019 that they hadn't contributed towards the cost.

Later, councillors debated a proposal by Councillors Jim Pilling and John Bates that the council should carry out an independent audit of information handling and storage, and financial management.

The motion was defeated, as was a further proposal to create a suitable line management structure for all council staff.

But Mr Bailey said later that a "thorough root and branch audit carried out by somebody completely independent of the town council" would take place.