Leigh town council chairman allegedly reports residents to police over sticky tape

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The noticeboard in Leigh-on-Sea with the agenda stuck to it with sellotape -Credit:No credit

A town council chairman has allegedly reported residents to the police for criminal damage - after they stuck an agenda on a noticeboard using sticky tape. Bernard Arscott, chief of Leigh-on-Sea town council, claimed members of a local campaign group had damaged the noticeboard's Perspex when the letter was removed.

Campaign group Looking after Leigh said leadership at the town council was "embarrassing" and that chairman Arscott should step down. A spokesperson for the group said: "The current leadership at Leigh town council keep wasting money and embarrassing our town. This is just one more of many reasons why they should do the right thing - and stand down."

They added that residents had submitted a formal request for an annual community meeting after the initial date on April 26 was cancelled by sticking it on the noticeboard. The spokesperson said: "Residents called the meeting under the Local Government Act after the original meeting had been cancelled without notice and explanation."

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"We tried to arrange a date with Councillor Arscott but he stated that he had the intention to call a meeting but did not make a commitment to do so."

Essex Police confirmed yesterday (May 14) that they had received a report for criminal damage in Leigh-on-Sea. A spokesperson added: "At this stage, no investigation has been launched."

The annual community meeting would allow residents to question councillors on any concerns they had. Looking after Leigh also intended to present a petition, which has 1,700 signatures, calling for town councillors who were elected in uncontested seats to resign.

Leigh-on-Sea became a Conservative-majority town council in 2023 after nine out of 16 seats were claimed by Tory councillors uncontested. A spokesperson for Looking after Leigh added: "I have had to contact the council many times at the request of residents to follow up on issues such as unanswered questions, lies made about staff and finances in the press."

"Bernard Arscott also appointed himself proper Officer - while already serving as Council Chair and finance chairman. More often than not, I have to follow up on the same issue multiple times because there is no answer from Leigh Town Council."

They also claimed that there had been a potential email hack within the town council after they received an email saying a councillor had resigned. When questioning the claim, the spokesperson said they received an "antagonistic email back" saying the councillor had not resigned and that it was "bullying and harassment on my part".

Independent Cllr Carole Mulroney said the sticky-tape situation was a "waste of police time" and took away from key issues in the seaside town. She said: "It is a storm in a teacup - the tape could have been removed with soap and water."

"Mr Arscott was complaining about the damage to the external Perspex but the board would have been damaged more by the removal than putting the agenda up. The residents are perfectly entitled by law to call their own meeting especially after grievances with the town council in the last year."

"Since 13 seats were taken by the Conservatives in May last year, they have suspended the town clerk, behaved rudely to residents in meetings and have dismissed independent councillors. I've been on the council for 18 years - the longest serving member - and we rarely had people turn up to town council meetings. Now 100 people turn up because they want to see something actually get done."

Last month, more than 100 residents held up signs saying "resign" and "slow hand clap" after previously being accused of "intimidating and abusive behaviour". In January of this year, Essex Police were called to a chaotic budget meeting after the clerk was allegedly subjected to abuse.

The meeting was abandoned early and police said it "did not require immediate police attendance". However Cllr Mulroney said the sticky-tape saga was the "tip of the iceberg" in a long-running dispute between councillors and residents.

Mr Arscott was contacted for comment. The annual community meeting has been rescheduled for May 17 following the row.

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