Parish council ‘cartel’: Anger at local ‘fiefdom’ run by chairman, three relatives – and two neighbours
- Parton, Cumbria, has been riven by a bitter war for control of the parish council
- Former teacher Robert Huck, 58, is at the centre of the row as the new chairman
- Copeland Borough Council has been forced to intervene to try and mediate
At first glance it seems like any other tranquil village nestled on the Cumbrian coast.
But beneath the surface, Parton has been riven by a bitter war for control of the parish council.
At the centre of the row is the new chairman Robert Huck, 58, who has been accused of creating a ‘personal fiefdom’.
In addition to the former teacher’s post on the 11-member council, three are also held by members of his family – his wife Julie, 63, their daughter Kirsty Barton, 38, and her husband Andrew, 37.
At the centre of the row is the new chairman Robert Huck, 58, (pictured with his wife Julie, 63, their daughter Kirsty Barton, 38, who are also on the council) who has been accused of creating a ‘personal fiefdom’
And after the resignation of the previous chairman and others last summer, the Hucks’ next-door neighbours Janice Miller, 61, and David Garrett, 58, have also ended up on the council.
It prompted claims they had taken power to force through votes. A petition of no-confidence in the group, circulated by ‘a quiet resistance’ of residents, has attracted more than 150 signatures in a population of barely 1,000.
But the Hucks’ supporters say efforts to unseat them amount to ‘intimidation’ and launched a counter-petition said to have received around 300 signatures.
The dispute came to head at a council meeting last month when police were called amid claims that councillors’ safety was at risk and members of the public ‘nearly came to blows’.
Now Copeland Borough Council, which covers Parton, has stepped in and decided this week to send the matter to mediation in a bid to reconcile the factions.
A spokesman said both petitions will be considered by its standards and ethics committee.
Mr and Mrs Huck and Mrs Barton were elected to the council in last year’s May elections.
Months later former chairman Kevin Young, 55, stepped down and Mr Huck became leader of the council. He has since also been installed as acting council clerk. Former councillor Stan Peel, 74, who resigned over the alleged takeover, said: ‘It seems the Hucks wanted everything their way.
Now Copeland Borough Council, which covers Parton, (pictured) has stepped in and decided this week to send the matter to mediation in a bid to reconcile the factions
‘They have managed to get the family on the council and their neighbours and now they have their own personal fiefdom. They went out of their way to rub people up the wrong way. They would disrupt any good ideas. I nearly came to blows one night.’
Mr and Mrs Huck declined to comment but daughter Mrs Barton insisted that her father had been misunderstood.
She said: ‘Whatever he is responsible for, he dots the I’s and crosses the T’s. He is very thorough and leaves no room for error.
‘I think there is a misunderstanding as dad wants to do things in a lawful way, which may be why people’s backs have got up.’
The infighting has cost Copeland Borough Council around £250,000 in lost man-hours. It has also resulted in 27 complaints since last May, with four upheld.
Former chairman Mr Young said: ‘It is an absolute mess. There is a quiet resistance going on.’