‘I’m sorry’ - Horncastle Mayor apologises and suggests ‘we now move on’

Horncastle Mayor Bill Aron
Horncastle Mayor Bill Aron

Horncastle’s embattled Mayor Coun Bill Aron has apologised after calling in police over his claims of bullying and harassment by a fellow town councillor and two members of the public.

Coun Aron says he has no plans to step down but admits he is sorry for any ‘inconvenience and upset’ he caused after complaining to police about Coun Jonathan Ferrari and residents Richard Barker and Andrew Neal.

Coun Ferrari has since resigned from the town council.

In a statement, Coun Aron said: “I originally approached the police for advice.

“However, the police subsequently started an investigation which I had not requested and I would like to apologise for the inconvenience and upset this caused.

“With the community’s best interest at heart, and the benefit of hindsight, I suggest we now move on.”

Coun Aron’s decision to contact police sparked controversial scenes at last month’s town council meeting.

Coun Ferrari left after Coun Aron refused to apologise to him, his 
wife - and to Mr Barker and Mr Neal.

Coun Aron was removed as chairman of the meeting.

There were calls for the town council to hold an extraordinary meeting to debate his future.

It has now emerged Coun Ferrari subsequently attended a meeting with Coun Aron, East Lindsey District Council’s monitoring officer Alex Strickland, and town clerk Gillian Mauger.

In a statement, the town council says they were informed by Mr Strickland at that meeting that there is no legal provision to hold an extraordinary meeting - or to demand Coun Aron’s resignation.

Coun Ferrari said: “It became immediately apparent (at the meeting with Mr Stickland) that there was no desire to investigate 
Coun Aron.

“Without an investigation we cannot therefore be seen as an open or transparent organisation.

“It was for this reason I tendered my resignation.”

In their statement, Mrs Mauger said: “At a meeting on February 14 some councillors and members of the public stated that the town council should hold an extraordinary council meeting to have a vote of no confidence in the 
mayor.

“At your request, I met with the ELDC monitoring officer, Alex Strickland (who in turn took advice from LALC – Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils) on the legalities of holding 
such a meeting to have this vote.

“The fact remains that there is no legal provision that would allow members to be removed from office as a town councillor in these circumstances.

“Nor can a town or parish council remove their chairman from office.

“Horncastle Town Council Standing Orders states: ‘The chairman of the council, unless he has resigned or becomes disqualified, shall continue in office and preside at the annual meeting until his successor is elected’.

“Taking these two points into account, it would be unlawful for the town council to hold an extraordinary meeting to have a vote of no confidence in the mayor (or any other councillor) as such a vote would carry no weight and the council would 
not be able to enforce 
any action resulting from 
it.”

The latest developments were initially sparked by claims by Coun Ferrari at a town council Personnel and Finance committee meeting in January about Coun Aron’s expenses and allowances.

Coun Ferrari, who was chairman of the committee, said some of Coun Aron’s claims were ‘not in the spirit of the position’.

Coun Aron says he has done nothing wrong and called for clarification on recent changes to the policy for the mayor’s expenses/allowances.

He told the News: “I will be publishing my mayoral expenses for anyone to see and can assure people that I’m within the reduced allowance.”

l A police spokesman said it was a ‘matter of course’ that the force investigated any allegations to decide whether to take any further
 action. Police have already confirmed that they will be taking no action against Coun Ferrari, Mr Neal and Mr Barker.