CATERHAM Valley Parish Council has hit back at Harestone Tandridge District Councillor Conservative Michael Cooper accusing him of not being supportive of the Parish.
And Parish Council chairman Cherie Callender said: “The majority of the Parish think the local District Councillors are trying to influence us too much. We do feel under attack from Councillor Cooper and his fellow Harestone District Councillor Beverley Connolly.”
And Councillor Callender issued a statement after Councillor Cooper had been quoted in a Conservative Insight leaflet- published on behalf of Counncillor Connolly- that he was calling on the Valley Parish to part fund a pelican crossing at the Miller Centre on Caterham’s busy Godstone Road.
Councillor Cooper had pointed out that because the project would join many others waiting for funding from Surrey County Council, the Parish could overcome the logjam by producing half the cost.
The leaflet added: “ So will the Parish Council step up to the mark and fund an idea which will enhance road safety?”
The pelican crossing project was taken to the Tandridge Local Committee of Surrey County Council by Parish Councillor Nicole Morrigan and she heard that Valley County Councillor David Lee was willing to pay for ‘Keep Clear’ signs to be painted on the road at the site of the crossing- from his members allowance – and that the County would be compiling a costing of installing a pelican crossing.
“Since then we have heard nothing “ said Councillor Morrigan.
Chairman Callender added: “What seems to be happening at the moment is that both Tandridge and Surrey Councils are looking to Parish Councils to pay for works which the County Council and District Council are, in fact, legally obliged to provide.
“This is not just limited to Caterham Valley Parish Council- it is happening with all the Parish Councils in the area. According to Surrey CC it is working to ‘devolve’ local decisions. However what it is NOT devolving is any of its budget, so its vision for Surrey seems to be for them to get Parishes to increasingly pay for things which the County has provided in the past. Obviously this places an increasing burden on our resources.”
Councillor Callender added that because 10 Conservatives had requested a by-election in July at a cost of £7,000 and said: “Given all seats on the Council are up for election in May 2020 the normal course of events would be to co-opt another person onto the Parish for the interim. However, 10 electors requested an election, so we are obliged to go ahead and hold one in July.”
The by-election resulted in victory for Conservative Ines Salman.
Councillor Morrigan said: “We are not here to play party politics which this by-election was.”
And chairman Callender concluded: “Caterham Valley Parish Council is a very pro-active and busy Parish Council and all the Parish Councillors (who are all unpaid) work full-time and have busy lives. It is very disappointing that District Councillor Michael Cooper is not supportive of the Parish Council. However we continue to support the requests and interests of Caterham Valley and Harestone residents to the best of our ability.”
In response District Councillor Michael Cooper said: “It is not my role to blindly support any council, especially when I feel that council is failing to work in the best interests of local residents. If we look at Caterham Valley Parish Council’s recent decisions it would seem that they much prefer to spend money on bureaucracy rather than improving facilities in Caterham.
“I fully support the idea of a pedestrian phase at the lights on the Godstone Road. However, as I have also made clear, getting Surrey County Council Highways agreement for such a change does not guarantee it will ever happen as SCC has a very long list of such good ideas but no money to progress any of them. Had CVPC representative Nicole Morrigan been paying attention at the recent Local Tandridge Joint Committee meeting she would have noted other local parish council’s putting forward similarly good ideas to improve road safety. All were agreed and instantly put on SCC’s long list.
“So, we can either wait at that end of the SCC queue or Caterham Valley Parish Council can use some of the money it currently wastes on bureaucracy to get the pedestrian phase installed. County Councillor David Lee use of some SCC money to paint a Keep Clear area on the crossing is fine but it does not address the question of pedestrians crossing the road.
“Having got an item onto the SCC list it is up to local councillors to push the idea forward and it was I who tasked the SCC officer to provide a costing, Councillor Morrigan having previously decided to leave the meeting without even asking. I can report that, so far, I am still awaiting a response and I will be pursing that failure by SCC at the next Local Joint Committee meeting. It would be nice if a Caterham Valley Parish councillor turned up to support me and showed some active interest in what, I feel, is a good initiative.
“Comment was also made about the concern of ten local residents to force a by election for a vacant seat on Caterham Valley Parish Council. I feel I am right in saying this was brought about for a series of reasons: CVPC has recently decided to double the number of meetings it holds with a consequent hike in costs. CVPC seems to be packed with unelected people who have no understanding of local government practice and some of whom do not even live in Harestone or even the CVPC area.
“Finally, most of the ten people involved, like your District Councillors, have taken the trouble to attend Parish meetings and have been disgusted by the toxic atmosphere at such events. As I understand it, the aim of the recent by election was to ensure that a properly elected representative, rather than another crony, should take a seat on CVPC and put forward the actual views and concerns of local people.
“It should be noted that an active local person, Ines Salman, has been elected by a good majority to do exactly that. She will have the full support of both Harestone District Councillors.”
Photo by kevin black shows Parish Councillors Morrigan and Callender at the site of the proposed pelican crossing.