Shaftesbury Town Council has discussed increasing its annual legal budget from £10,000 to £40,000. The extra £30,000 would fund the council’s legal costs from challenges and actions brought by two town councillors, Peter Yeo and Karen Tippins.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, town clerk Claire Commons advised that the council should prepare for a judicial review, which could cost £20,000. But councillors chose not to take the town clerk’s advice. Instead, they voted to put the £30,000 sum into The Maltings Estate’s community infrastructure budget.
In a political move, the General Management Committee agreed that council legal costs from Cllrs Yeo’s and Tippin’s actions should be paid from this development fund. Large legal bills would mean less money for community facilities at Mampitts Square.
The full details of the councillors’ legal challenges have not been made public, but during the meeting, it was disclosed the town council was sent a legal letter as part of a claim for ‘costs and damages for breach of personal data’. And Cllr Yeo has stated in council meetings that he has used a solicitor to pursue his issues with Shaftesbury Town Council. Cllr Yeo believes that the council breaches EU and UK law when councillors exclude him from meetings for not observing the requests to follow council procedural and meeting etiquette rules.
Claire Commons said that all councillors have the right to raise concerns if they believe correct procedures are not being followed. “The difficulty we have is that when they are being reassured that everything is being done correctly, they’re not accepting that and they are pushing further and further,” Claire said.
Cllrs Yeo and Tippins are not on the General Management Committee, which met on Tuesday. They didn’t attend the meeting’s Zoom session. Tonight, the Full Council meets and will decide whether to follow the recommendation to switch funds from the legal budget to The Maltings project. We will report on the councillors’ comments and reaction from this evening’s meeting later this week.