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.
Sadly our council will shortly consist of unelected members. It really is time for the Minister to place the council (once again) into administration until the October 2022 election.
I am really saddened by this.
We lost Rachel Power because of bullying.
We lost Anne Salt because of lack of integrity in council.
We lost Martyn Evans because he failed to attend three meetings without being granted leave.
And now we have lost Paul Belcher because his political opponents called him out for breaches of laws that many businesses fail to comply with.
We lost our Community Development officer Kelly Sims because of bullying, harassment and being defamed. She was doing her job when a business was not complying to the laws of their permit.
We have our council workers go to their union because of bullying and harassment.
We have code of conduct investigations used as a form of intimidation.
We have police at council meetings as intimidation and community members arrested for raising concerns.
Each one of these diverse people or groups have something positive to bring into our democratic community.
As a ratepayer I am outraged at the amount of money, time and energy that has been wasted.
No, the laws are not farcical. The behaviour of people are.
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
As the saying goes “the fish stinks from the head down”
It is time for all of us to take a long hard look at ourselves and our behaviours and ask how each of us as an individual or group can bring respect, care, humility, integrity and honesty back to this community.
Only then will we thrive.
Look around this beautiful valley, smell those glorious roses and most of all be kind. It costs nothing.
Disgraceful turn of events. The Integrity of this council has been in question since they were elected.. Something should have been done a very long time ago re the conduct that has seen members resign and claim bullying as one reason.
* Disgraceful treatment over time of now former Councillor Belcher (amongst others).
* An overblown management team who is out of control without checks and balances from Council.
* A number of Councillors sitting by default and disenfranchised despondent community members.
How much does it take to require being put into administration?
When we had multiple acting general managers in one year surely signalled major disarray?
I have no respect, confidence or trust in our council as it now stands.
Shame on all who have allowed this to happen.