Sunday, 29 November 2020

Sabotage claim over skate park

THE man set to be the next mayor of Henley has been accused of trying to

THE man set to be the next mayor of Henley has been accused of trying to “sabotage” a £100,000 grant towards a new skate park.

Councillor Julian Brookes, who is currently Deputy Mayor, denied the claims, which were made during an ill-tempered meeting about the mayoral nomination process.

Cllr Brookes, a member of the ruling Conservative party, was nominated by fellow Tory David Nimmo Smith at Tuesday’s meeting but the discussion quickly turned sour as members of the opposition Henley Residents’ Group rounded on him.

They claimed he had tried to stop South Oxfordshire District Council awarding the grant to the Henley Skate Park Initiative to replace the facility at Makins recreation ground. Councillor Kellie Hinton (HRG) said she had heard a lot about “transparency” and “respect” but added: “What I don’t have respect for is Julian trying to sabotage the skate park at South Oxfordshire District Council level by using his Deputy Mayor title.”

Cllr Brookes said he had spoken to Carol Cummings in the district council’s grants office and was told about the grant application made by Colin Brathwaite, chairman of the initiative.

As he didn’t know Mr Brathwaite, he sought advice from the then town clerk Mike Kennedy and later told him by email that Ms Cummings would be seeking to verify the town council’s approval.

Cllr Brookes said he “made it my business” to make sure the grant application was properly scrutinised.

“The previous year the application failed because the planning application was applied for too late,” he said.

“I went through the procedure pretty carefully — that is the truth and the whole truth.”

But Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak (HRG) responded: “Unfortunately, that’s not my reading of the situation.

“This skate park grant was really important because we failed in the first year.

“I received a phone call from Carol Cummings who said a Henley town councillor, Julian Brookes, was actually saying this application was not correct and it was illegal because it had not been ratified by Henley Town Council.

“I don’t have any problem with members of the council questioning whether something is legal or not.

“I do seriously question someone going outside this council before the facts were established and, in my opinion, trying to stop that application at district council level.”

Cllr Brookes won the nomination to be mayor by seven votes to six against the current Mayor Lorraine Hillier, another Conservative, who was nominated by Cllr Gawrysiak and seconded by Cllr Hinton.

After the meeting, Cllr Brookes told the Henley Standard: “I stumbled across something which may not have been in order so I wanted to make sure it was in order — end of story.

“At the end of the day that’s democracy and these things have to be aired. They are perfectly entitled to bring them up.”

Conservative councillor Will Hamilton was voted to be deputy mayor elect, beating Cllr David Eggleton, of Henley Residents’ Group, by 10 votes to three.

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