Councillors criticised for “flawed” decision

A FORMER Epworth Town Councillor has criticised his ex-colleagues for making a “seriously flawed” decision over the purchase of additional cemetery land.

Richard Hall, of Battle Green, addressed members of the town council at this month’s regular meeting in the Imperial Hall, during the public participation section.

Mr Hall’s remarks concern the proposed purchase of an additional two acres of land - valued at £50,000 - on Burnham Road, close to the cemetery which is the responsibility of Epworth Town Council.

The land in question belongs to the current council chairman, Margaret Lindley, and the council were discussing the purchase to be able to extend the existing cemetery when the need arose.

Mr Hall said: “Only one valuation has been secured and this is seriously flawed.

“Also a soil test has not been carried out and there is no idea how long it will be before current land will be exhausted - plus there is some land not being used.

“You have not done your homework on this.

“Not one councillor has questioned this valuation and you have to try and deliver value for money.”

Mr Hall maintains at least three valuations should have been obtained, a sentiment echoed by several councillors when the issue was debated later in the evening.

Town clerk Caroline Maguire confirmed no soil tests had been carried out at the cemetery and she also said it was “difficult to ascertain” how much available land was currently left.

Councillor Yvonne Oliver said three valuers were contacted however one did not reply and another did not feel “sufficient” to value the land.

A vote was taken to delay purchase of the land until three valuations were secured but this resulted in a 6-6 tie.

Another vote was taken to proceed with the purchase at £50,000 and this was carried 7-5.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Hall said: “It’s ridiculous. For everything else they would get three quotes but on a major issue like this they only go on one valuation. They have let the town down.”

Coun Lindley had to leave the meeting room during the council’s debate on the issue because she had to declare a personal interest.

Speaking to the Bells/Advertiser she confirmed the clerk did try to get three valuations.

She added: “I was told a year or two back from someone on the council that they might be looking at cemetery land and that mine would be a prime target.

“There is still so much land left but you have to have some land in advance in case, heaven forbid, there was an epidemic or something so this would be the thinking.

“The valuation won’t be based on building value, it would be more like an agricultural value, that’s the information that was given to me at that time.

“I am quite happy to accept whatever the council comes up with.”