On Monday 20th July, the Town Clerk received a complaint from a member of the public, alleging that a Town Councillor was using Town Council resources in an inappropriate manner.
This was not an anonymous complaint, but the complainant did ask that their details were kept confidential, as per their right under data protection legislation. They were fearful of reprisals on social media and in person if their details were to be released.
Following the complaint, all Councillors were contacted and asked to contact the Town Clerk if they were concerned that any work they are undertaking is out-with the Council responsibilities, in order to receive appropriate advice on these activities from officers of the Council.
Comments on social media have since linked this to a litter pick on the Merrington Lane estate, initiated by Cllr McAloon.
In relation to this, the Town Council has supplied Cllr McAloon with litter pickers and waste bags on numerous occasions for his litter picks.
Our much-valued grounds team, who are responsible for our excellent Jubilee Park and other green sites around the town, pick up and dispose of the rubbish collected by Cllr McAloon and his team of volunteers.
Where these are carried out on Town Council land there is no hesitation in removing the waste.
However, where litter is picked from land which is not owned by the Town Council, the Town Council has no right to remove items from the land.
The Town Council are not an enforcement authority; this is the responsibly of Durham County Council. Therefore, Town Council grounds staff are neither insured nor covered by risk assessment for such work outside of sites owned by the Town Council.
With the nature of litter and fly-tipping, there are many risks including those to health from hazardous waste, including asbestosis, pierce injuries, and contracting virus.
If a member of staff or the public are injured due to Town Council staff working outwith their duties, then the Town Council could be prosecuted and fined. This would clearly have an impact upon public monies.
It is important to negate falsehoods which have been suggested on social media, and clarify that:
- The Town Clerk has not complained about these litter picks, she has received a complaint from a member of the public.
- The Council, and the Clerk have been continuously supportive of the litter picks.
Officers of the Town Council also reported the management company of the estate to Durham County Council at request and on behalf of Councillor McAloon and provided him with draft wording so that he could make a complaint as well, to add more weight to the issue.
Last week the Town Council spent over £300 on litter pickers for Cllr McAloon to continue his litter picks.
We are committed to supporting Cllr McAloon in his activities to improve our town, and this extends to the work of all of our members.
In relation to litter picks in general, the Town Council has provided bags and loaned litter pickers to other community groups, and will continue to support these activities in our community.
Councillor Ian Geldard
Chairman of Policy and Resources, Spennymoor Town Council