OLDHAM Council leader Sean Fielding is being invited to Saddleworth Parish Council to find out more about their value and work in the community after remarks they “make hot air” about issues.
Cllr Fielding’s comments came during a discussion at an Oldham Council meeting after Cllr Howard Sykes called for Oldhamers to have greater input on Greater Manchester’s controversial housing and employment spatial framework.
Responding, Cllr Fielding said: “There will be a meaningful consultation when the revised plans go out in October.
“That will be the opportunity at which members and members of the public will have the opportunity to respond.
“I know the Lib Dems are fond of increasing layers of bureaucracy and bringing things to decision making that they don’t need to come to in the way they champion the creation of parish councils in Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton which collectively costs tax payers an additional £260,000 for a self-indulgent exercise in allowing people to make hot air about issues that needn’t come to those bodies.”
Both Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton Parish councillors have challenged the com-ments, with many writing to Cllr Fielding to express their disagreement.
Saddleworth Parish Council is formally inviting Cllr Fielding to a meeting, which members of the public are welcome to attend, to discuss the comments.
Cllr Rob Knotts, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, said: “Cllr Fielding is quite entitled to say how he feels. Everybody has freedom of speech in this country.
“But we want him to come and explain what he meant.”
Cllr Alan Belmore added: “I strongly disagree with Cllr Fielding but I give him credit for be-ing honest. I hope this brings now a more forthright dialogue with Oldham Council.
“But we must also challenge ourselves about how we can demonstrate better what we do for the people of Saddleworth.”
The Parish Council, formed in 1974, maintains the Civic Hall and Parish Cemetery, has a number of sub-committees to conduct business, and is consulted on all planning applications in the area.
Cllr Pam Byrne said she has written to Cllr Fielding explaining about each the sub-committees and what they all do.
Cllr Paul Fryer commented: “When I was speaking to Cllr Fielding, he pointed out quite rightly that we have Quality Parish Council status, which means we can take on services from Oldham Council and deliver them ourselves. But we’ve never done that.”
But Cllr John Hudson responded: “As leader of the council, I would have thought Cllr Fielding would take the time to learn about what we do before he makes such as a statement.
“But I welcome the fact he will come and see us.
“I certainly will be asking him about the Rate Support Grant. We are among just two percent of parish councils who are not receiving it from their local authority this year and last.”
A date for Cllr Fielding to meet with Saddleworth Parish Council has yet to be confirmed.
Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, told the Independent in response: “It’s Council taxpayers who have to raise the £263,000 a year to pay for the Parish Councils of Shaw and Crompton and Saddleworth.
“It’s my job to question whether this is fair on residents living in these areas and if it’s a good use of their money.
“When I made these comments during Full Council it wasn’t my intention to offend Parish Councillors and I certainly do not question their commitment to their communities.
“I’m happy to accept the invitation of Parish Councillors and I’m looking forward to having a constructive relationship with them moving forward.”