AN independent report into the conduct of Wakefield Council during a bid to establish a town council in Pontefract has found the authority acted in accordance with the law.
The local authority commissioned solicitors Walker Morris in Leeds to produce a paper into the Pontefract Community Governance Review – held between 2008 and 2010 – after former Normanton MP Sir Bill O’Brien claimed the council acted improperly during the two-stage review.
The law firm was asked to look at the council’s conduct during the review, whether the council acted in accordance with the law, and finally to consider issues regarding the need for a referendum as raised by Sir Bill, who was secretary of community action group, Pontefract Forward.
At a meeting of full council last week, leader Coun Peter Box said: “We have had a review of the actions this council took while dealing with a review and the fact is we all know there are some individuals who won’t accept that we acted properly.
“Hopefully this report now puts that issue to bed. For me, it’s the end of the matter. But there are those that will never accept what is blindingly obvious to others.”
Coun Box added after the meeting he had “complete confidence” in the report and felt the council’s decision was “fair, reasonable and based on the wishes of people in Pontefract”.
In 2008 Sir Bill asked the council for a review into the creation of a town council for Pontefract and suggested this be decided by referendum.
The council said a referendum would cost around £15,000 and instead held a two-stage consultation which included asking residents for their opinions.
The report states that the first round of public votes was in favour of a town council but the second – which combined responses from the first stage – found a majority against the proposal and it was formally decided that a town council not be established in Pontefract.
Sir Bill told the Express: “The report doesn’t address half of the things that we have been raising over the last few years.
“It gives wrong figures and the council won’t give us the right information because it would expose them to greater involvement in how they treated Pontefract.”
The report concluded there was no legal requirement to hold a referendum and added: “We have not seen anything which would lead us to believe that the decision the council took was not one it could properly and safely take.”