A VOTE of no confidence in a Stone councillor floundered when colleagues rallied round to defend his integrity.
The motion, aimed at removing Councillor Michael Williamson from his role as chairman of Stone Town Council’s planning committee, was brought forward by Councillor Jill Hood, who said he had failed in his role by agreeing to sit on the planning committee at Stafford Borough Council after previous declaring an interest in the same application when it came before the committee in Stone.
Councillor Hood said: “I went along to the borough council to listen to the planning application – the Walton Hill Residential Development for 500 houses – and I was fully expecting to see Councillor Collier in the planning seat representing Stone.
“I was amazed to see Councillor Mike Williamson sitting in the seat, as he had previously, in this chamber [Stone Town Council] declared an interest in the same item and left the chamber when it was discussed.”
“He didn’t speak and when it came to the vote he abstained,” she said.
“Why on Earth, when he had declared an interest did he find himself able to stand in as a member of Stafford’s planning committee?”
“I have no doubt that Councillor Williamson is a man of integrity, but I think it was foolish to go and sit on that planning committee. It’s totally morally and ethically wrong.”
Mike Williamson at first declined to comment, but reading from a prepared statement, Councillor Margaret Goodhall spoke in his defence.
“It is my opinion this motion is just playing politics,” she said. “He [Councillor Williamson] took advice from the chairman of Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee and of the chief legal officer at Stafford Borough Council.
“He agreed to become a substitute at only 12 hours notice and he did this only because he considered it to be his duty. He now openly admits this was a serious mistake.”
She said in future Councillor Williamson would only agree to act as a substitute if he had a minimum of three days notice.
“On that basis, I will be opposing Councillor Hood’s motion,” she said.
Councillor Rob Kenney said: “It seems to me that because Councillor Williamson is chairman of our planning committee he has been put into this position.
“We can’t have a situation where a chairman can’t make a decision because doing both things compromises him being chairman in here,” he said. “He needs to make a decision to do one thing or another.
“We make a decision in the council chamber over what this council wants to put forward and I would expect any member of this council who sits on the planning committee in Stafford puts forward the interests of Stone.”
Councillor Williamson said: “When I was asked to substitute on the planning committee I considered that it was my duty to do so and wanted to make sure the meeting was quorate.
“I now realise that was a tragic mistake and one I will never make again.”
The motion was defeated with only three councillors voting to pass it, eight voting against and three abstaining from the motion.