A PARISH council wracked by turmoil last year over a code of conduct imposed by the Government is facing a fresh crisis because it will not have enough members after May 1.

Lack of public interest in the forthcoming local elections means that the combined six-member Aiskew and Leeming Bar Parish Council, which is already running two below strength, will be left without a quorum of three, the minimum number of members necessary to hold a meeting.

It is the largest of a number of parishes in Hambleton revealed to be without enough candidates to fill the available seats. Its area includes a growing industrial estate at Leeming Bar and three large housing developments in Aiskew and it is the second largest financial contributor to the burial authority serving the Bedale area.

Only two of the present three members for Aiskew, Couns Carl Les and Bob Pocklington, are standing again and all three representing Leeming Bar, including chairman Coun David Lumley, are stepping down with no replacements coming forward.

The council faced a potential crisis a year ago, when it was operating with seven out of its eight eligible members, over the introduction by the Government of a mandatory code of conduct involving a publicly available register of interests, membership of organisations and gifts of over £25 received while performing council duties.

Couns Terry Noyes, John Yates and Les Kirby, all representing Aiskew, resigned in protest at what they saw as ill-conceived and heavy-handed legislation, at one point attracting the interest of a national radio programme. The council was able to co-opt only two replacements, Coun Les and Coun Mike Lowe, who is not standing again.

Couns Lumley, Maureen Braithwaite and Herbert Smith, all representing Leeming Bar, and Coun Pocklington agreed to accept the code on the basis that the future of the council would be safeguarded pending the emergence of any new candidates at this year's elections.

That interest has not materialised, and with Couns Lumley, Braithwaite, Smith and Lowe now all stepping down, vice-chairman Coun Pocklington said on Wednesday: ''My understanding is that we can no longer function as a parish council.

''It's a sad reflection on society that there is no one willing to stand, but I imagine the new code of conduct has put people off. They may also be deterred by the amount of stuff a parish councillor has to read.

''I was very seriously not going to bother myself because I feel I have done my whack in various public organisations but, even if it is not appreciated, the parish council does a lot of good for people.

"People are ready to criticise but don't realise you are trying to do things for the area.

''Maybe it's the geographical and commercial features, but there does not seem to be any community spirit here. People rely on Bedale, it's as simple as that.''

At the last meeting of the existing council on April 23 (7.30) in St Augustine's Community Centre, Leeming Bar, members are due to reconsider the feasibility of a merger with their larger neighbour at Bedale.

But Coun Pocklington admitted that in one sense, in the present circumstances, this might now be a pointless exercise.

The issue, which has already been explored and shelved twice in the past five years, is being resurrected partly in an attempt to stir up more interest in parish council affairs among villagers who neither attend meetings as members of the public nor offer themselves as candidates in elections.

It is also being pointed out that parishioners from Aiskew and Leeming Bar depend on and use services in Bedale and many commitments are already in place with the town council.

A spokesman for Hambleton District Council, which will administer the parish council elections, said that in parishes where there were not enough candidates to form a quorum, the authority would arrange for a second election to be held as soon as possible after May 1.

If this proved unsuccessful, an order would be made to establish a quorum and arrange for co-options to fill the vacant seats