THE role of a town traders' group has come under scrutiny.

In recent months, Barnard Castle Business Guild has taken a proactive approach to a number issues in the town, such as car parking and the future of the weekly market.

However, town councillors questioned whether this should be the group's remit when they, as elected members, were responsible for lobbying for the town as a whole.

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The matter was raised during a discussion led by Coun Roger Peat, the town council's representative on the Guild.

Coun Peat reported that the Guild chairman, Tony Woods, had stood down at the group's last meeting.

He paid tribute to Mr Woods' efforts, saying he had stimulated a much greater interest in the group's activities.

“I did not necessarily agree with everything Mr Woods said, but attendance at meetings was greatly increased. At one stage it was getting down to just half a dozen people.”

Coun Tom Deacon asked for an update on the Guild's discussions on car parking in Barnard Castle.

Coun Peat replied: “There has been a lot of talking but no decision has been made. At the moment there are a lot of ideas coming forward, but there is no structure to get a vote and make a decision.”

Coun Thom Robinson queried: “Is it the Guild's remit to represent Barnard Castle?

“Is it not our job to address these issues on behalf of the people and businesses of Barnard Castle?

“I thought the Guild was a support group for themselves rather than a lobby group.”

Coun Deacon added: “Organisations like the Guild should not go to meetings supposedly representing all the people of Barnard Castle.”

Coun Peat agreed. “I feel it should be more a forum for discussion and to stimulate ideas. The town council's job is to take forward the full view of the town.

“The Guild is a relatively small body compared to the town council, however, it is very important that the town council should connect with the Guild.”

A spokesperson for the Guild, which represents more than 100 businesses in Barnard Castle, said: “We are a group interested in stimulating the economy for the benefits of members.

“We see our role as having discussions with appropriate authorities, agencies and partners in order to do this.

“The Guild is not a public body and should remain focused on improving the trading prospects of its members by having relevant and necessary discussions with partner organisations to enable this to happen.

“It is important to work with the town council. The Guild values its partnerships enormously and will continue to work with partners in order to brings plans and ideas to fruition.”