CAMPAIGNERS have lodged a formal complaint over the latest delay in Darlington Borough Council’s plans to cut and change library services.
In a missive signed by several people, the authority is accused of displaying a “cavalier attitude to conflicts of interest”.
The complaint concerns the third delay to the contentious plans, which followed an admission from the council’s assistant director for law and governance, Luke Swinhoe, that there had been a “procedural omission”.
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As part of a programme of £12.5m budget cuts, the strongly-opposed proposals would see the historic Crown Street library closed and most of its resources moved to the Dolphin Centre, the town’s mobile library axed and Cockerton Library handed to volunteers.
Whilst also playing a pivotal part in the decision-making process, the council’s cabinet was recently identified as trustee of Crown Street Library.
However, cabinet members failed to properly follow procedure in January by not declaring interest ahead of a vote recommending closure of the library.
Darlington Borough Council confirmed they were dealing with the complaint from campaigners, which said: “The cabinet clearly had two different roles as both the decision-maker and the trustee.
“The cabinet failed to declare interests properly, as has now been acknowledged. This failure shows a cavalier attitude to conflicts of interest and has delayed an important decision.
“It is particularly unsatisfactory in light of the fact that Cllr Heather Scott raised the issue in cabinet last year and Yvonne Richardson warned the council of this conflict in emails.
“Alan MacNab also asked specific questions on this issue, to which he received a reply which did not answer the questions he had asked.
“We would appreciate an explanation of how this mistake came to be made and the steps you will be taking to prevent a similar mistake in the future.”
The complaint was signed by leader of Darlington’s Conservative group Cllr Heather Scott, Liberal Democrat councillor Anne-Marie Curry and independent councillor Kevin Nicholson, along with Conservative politician Peter Cuthbertson and Friends of Darlington Libraries members Yvonne Richardson, Paul Howell and former councillor Alan MacNab.