MP calls for district auditor to investigate Seaford Town Council

Seaford sign
Seaford sign
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‘Dysfunctional and out of control’ was how MP Norman Baker described Seaford Town Council this week as he called for the district auditor to investigate the running and finances of the council.

The town council was asked for an official response to the problems raised by Mr Baker, but said it would issue a press release next week.

The council also hit the headlines when police were recently called to town council meeting after a member of the public refused to stop filming the proceedings.

Mr Baker said he did not normally intervene in such matters but the state of chaos at Seaford Town Council was such that it could not be allowed to deteriorate further.

He said: “I owe it my constituents in what is the biggest town in my constituency to take action. That’s why I have written to the independent district auditor to ask for an urgent investigation.

“Seaford Town Council is dysfunctional and out of control.”

But cllrs Paul Franklin and Barry Burfield said: “As Seaford parish council is not an administrative function within Lewes District Council, we seek clarification from Mr Baker under whose authority the district auditor will be operating.

“Seaford Town Council has regular independent internal and external audits, and none of the recent audit reports have highlighted any significant areas of concern.

“We are seeking clarity from Mr Baker if this statement [Seaford Town Council is dysfunctional and out of control] has basis in, and is evidenced in fact, or whether his statement is one of personal opinion.”

Resident Brian Read told the council on Thursday January 16 he had the legal right to film.

But the council said standing orders prohibited filming without prior consent and after some investigation by the council, it said there was only a bill, not a law about filming at council meetings.

The police were called and asked to speak to Mr Read, 55, of Blatchington Road, outside the meeting, but he refused to leave. The council then decided to close the meeting.

On the agenda was the proposed budget for 2014-15, a feasibility study into building a water sports and leisure facility on the Salts and communications about the lease of the Martello Tower to Seaford Museum.

Mr Read said: “I heard it was going to be a contentious meeting, so I just wanted to have some video minutes.”

Under Seaford Town Council Standing Order 1N it says: “Photographing, recording, broadcasting, or transmitting the proceedings of a meeting by any means is not permitted without the council’s prior consent.”

A statement from the town council said: “Prior consent was not formally requested and every attempt was made to continue the meeting within the bounds of governing rules, however standing prder 34a prevents this rule being suspended by resolution immediately. The council could change their rules for the future to allow filming, however to do this there is a procedure to follow which cannot be done until after the adjourned meeting is completed.”