THE Derwent Valley Council has lost a second councillor in only a week, with the resignation of Paul Belcher earlier today. In a Facebook post late this afternoon, Mr Belcher advised of his resignation and said it had been in the wind for six months.
“It is not a decision I have taken lightly,” he wrote. “I know a lot will be upset with my decision and some will be delighted, but I think it’s best for myself at this time to call it a day while my humour is still intact.” Mr Belcher ended his Facebook post with the hashtag “Bullying is not OK.”
In his post, Mr Belcher also thanked his family and friends for their support. “I thank those that supported me and for reaching out when you needed a helping hand. I’ve always had the community’s best interests at heart. I need to concentrate on my personal life and my business and my next business venture.”
Mr Belcher’s resignation comes only a week after former mayor Martyn Evans’ 14-year stint on council came to an end when his seat was declared vacant due to his being absent from three meetings in a row. A recount of Mr Evans’ votes from the 2018 council election will be conducted on December 13 to find who will fill the vacancy. A similar process will be conducted to find Mr Belcher’s replacement.
Mr Belcher has been the subject of ongoing scrutiny over his pizza business in New Norfolk, which he admitted opening in 2019 without some of the necessary permits. In March 2020 he was found to have breached the councillor code of conduct and was issued a caution. A re-investigation of the same matter by the director of local government resulted in Mr Belcher being issued with a “performance improvement directive.”
The matter has been raised repeatedly in recent issues of the Derwent Valley Gazette, with commentary by mayor Ben Shaw. In a Facebook post this evening, the paper promises “full details about Paul Belcher” in its next edition.
Mr Belcher was absent from the last two council meetings. At the start of the November meeting, deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove said she had contacted Mr Belcher earlier that day to check on his welfare. His resignation means tomorrow night’s (Thursday) Derwent Valley Council annual general meeting and December council meeting will be short two members even before they get under way.
By the time of the January meeting, four of the eight Derwent Valley councillors will be sitting by virtue of having been elected on recounts since the 2018 election.