Beccles council row reopens

A WAVENEY councillor has defended his call for a by-election in Beccles over claims that a fellow member is not fulfilling his duties.Graham Elliott, councillor for Beccles north, appealed for Gary Ruickbie to step down from his seat at Beccles south after being “unheard of” in his ward.

A WAVENEY district coun-cillor has defended his call for a by-election in Beccles amid claims that a fellow member is not fulfilling his duties.

Graham Elliott, member for Beccles North, appealed for Gary Ruickbie to step down from his seat at Beccles South amid accusations of his being "unheard of" in his ward.

Mark Bee, leader of the council, has spoken in favour of Mr Ruickbie, saying he has suffered personal setbacks and has not breached any obligations. However, Mr Elliott said the work of a council was not about attending formal council meetings but to deal with real problems, with which Mr Ruickbie had not engaged.

Mr Elliott said: "The real work is representing the residents of the ward they were elected to serve. Dealing with housing problems, wheelie bins, dog poo and double- yellow lines may not be very glamorous but it is the central role of a councillor.

"Attending town council meetings may not be the height of a politician's ambitions, but it is where you are able to hear, first-hand, what the local issues are. After 14 months I have seen no evidence to suggest that Mr Ruickbie has even started engaging with the community he represents. I am aware that Mr Ruickbie has had a series of personal setbacks during the 14 months he has been a councillor. This is why I haven't pursued the matter in public until now.

"I also accept that he has done more than the legal minimum to avoid being forcibly unseated. This legal minimum is to attend a meeting of the council once in every six months. According to a Waveney District Council spokesman, Mr Ruickbie has attended five meetings during the last 14 months so he is clearly above this threshold."

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Mr Elliott confirmed that on February 23 he met Mr Bee and chief executive Stephen Baker to ask that a by-election be held to coincide with the European Parliament and county council elections. He said: "It was an opportunity for Mr Ruickbie to step aside quietly and to do so at minimal cost to the council. Mark Bee refused this request, saying that Mr Ruickbie would be an active ward councillor. Four months later, I ask the people of Beccles: 'Have you seen him?'"

Mr Bee said: "I am extremely disappointed that Councillor Elliott continues to pursue this matter. The setbacks that Cllr Ruickbie has suffered are well known now, partic-ularly to Cllr Elliott, and it is not for him to dictate how Cllr Ruickbie conducts himself or seek to force him out. My personal and political values demand that I support and empathise with my constituents, and the same goes for my attitude to Cllr Ruickbie, who deserves support, not further attacks.

"Cllr Ruickbie intends to play a more active role as a Waveney coun-cillor, and, having received these assurances, I would ask Cllr Elliot to also show the compassion, empathy and support that all councillors should show in their work."

Mr Ruickbie has declined to speak to the Journal about the matter.

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