North Somerset Council leader criticised for not attending parish meetings
PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 April 2018
Parish councillors have hit out at North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton as he has failed to attend a single one of their meetings over the past three years.
Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Parish Council has expressed its frustrations with Cllr Ashton for not attending the public sessions.
Parish council chairman Andy Jopp – a former deputy leader for North Somerset Council – said while he ‘understood’ Cllr Ashton was a busy man, residents ‘expect him to treat their local representatives with more respect’.
Cllr Ashton, who as a North Somerset councillor is not duty bound to attend parish meetings, said he is ‘very aware’ of his responsibilities to those who elected him and ‘did not take that lightly’.
He said he hosts regular surgeries which are well attended and holds meetings at people’s homes which they prefer.
Cllr Ashton added: “I am in Easton-in-Gordano every week without fail, following up calls, looking at prospective planning applications and checking roads.
“Because of my commitments I have arranged for a senior officer to act as a liaison who can follow up any urgent items and attends many of the parish meetings.
“I have great respect for the work active parishes do and the time put in by its members and feel my own contribution is best made by direct contact with residents.”
Cllr Ashton was elected councillor for Gordano Valley in 2015. According to parish council records, however, he has not attended meetings of Tickenham, Weston-in-Gordano, Walton-in-Gordano or Clapton-in-Gordano this year either which all fall in his ward.
Cllr Ashton also sits on non-council boards and committees which he believes ‘bring a benefit’ to North Somerset. He presides on the Police and Crime Panel, Fire and Rescue Improvement Board and the West of England Partnership.
He also said it is a ‘privilege’ to work for a council which is ‘recognised as one of the best’.
A parish council spokesman said: “Parish councils are the lowest tier of local government and therefore the closest to residents. Because of this they are often more aware of what is going on in their village.
“Although the parish council’s role is somewhat different to the district councillor, it is still important they are able to have good communication with their district councillor. This is best done through having the councillor attend some of the parish council meetings.”