The row over the proposed sale of Louth’s Cattle Market has intensified following an accusation of misconduct against an ELDC councillor.
The comments were made at an extraordinary meeting of the Louth Town Council, held on July 1, which was called to allow the council to decide upon a corporate response to the proposed sale of the Cattle Market site.
Mayor Andrew Leonard suggested that the East Lindsey District Councillor Adam Grist - a member of the Executive Board which made the formal recommendation to sell the site - of breaching the ELDC’s code of conduct, and questioned whether he had “deliberately misled the public in order to justify the sale.”
Mayor Leonard said that Coun Grist had repeated the claim that the Cattle Market is losing £70,000 per annum, both at Area Committee meetings and at a meeting of the ‘Move Louth Forward’ pro-supermarket campaign group in April.
Mayor Leonard continued: “Gary Sargeant, who is the Property Services Manager at ELDC, has categorically stated that the £70,000, he’s not quite sure where that figure came from, because it doesn’t exist.
“Now, that would make me believe that this potential fictitious figure had been put into the public arena to convince the public that it’s making a loss when actually it’s probably not making anywhere near a loss, or if it is then it’s a very small loss.
“I think, essentially, he’s breached the code of conduct if that is proven to be the case - and I am happy to be corrected if it’s wrong.”
Mayor Leonard added that he felt Coun Grist had failed to be impartial on the issue, claiming that he had a “close allegiance” with Move Louth Forward.
Mayor Leonard added: “There are seven points on the code of conduct, and I believe that he has breached them.”
For the full Code of Conduct, scroll to the bottom of this page.
Coun Grist has vehemently denied the accusations, telling the Louth Leader the claims are “complete nonsense”.
Coun Grist said: “A figure of £70,000 was mentioned in debates and at meetings in late 2013 and early 2014.
“I am aware of this figure being the subject of discussion, but it is not something I personally introduced into the debate. “In fact I have subsequently made every effort to clarify the actual revenue costs and ensure correct information is in the public domain.
“Moreover, the rationale behind ELDC looking at the possible sale of land at Newmarket is nothing whatsoever to do with the annual revenue cost of maintaining the cattle market site, but due to the potential of a significant capital receipt which can be re-invested into the local community.
“It should be noted that this large site is currently under used hosting a market for half a day each week .
“As an elected District Councillor I always endeavour to act in the best interests of all ELDC residents. My views on all local issues are based on the feedback I receive from local people and judgements made using accurate facts and figures.
“Leadership sometimes necessitates making difficult and contentious decisions.
“The very nature of a free democracy is based on the ability of individuals to enter into discussion in an agreeable manner and respect other points of view. It’s a pity that this seems to be a concept that currently evades a number of councillors in Louth presently.
“On July 23, the responsibilty for the decision on whether or not to sell the site with lie with all 60 elected district councillors who will make an informed decision based on factual information.”
The seven points on the ELDC members’ Code of Conduct are as follows:
SELFLESSNESS - acting in terms of the public interest.
INTEGRITY - Members should not place themselves under pressure from outside bodies.
OBJECTIVITY - choices should be based on merit.
HONESTY - declaration of any private interests.
LEADERSHIP - leading by example.
OPENNESS - give reasons for decisions and actions taken.
ACCOUNTABILITY - all members are open to scrutiny.