TAX-PAYERS from across Stockton would have to pay £100,000 just to examine the possibility of of Yarm leaving Stockton Borough Council, a report has claimed.
That figure, which will be considered by Stockton Borough Council's cabinet committee next week, has been challenged by campaigners who want the small town to join neighbouring Hambleton District Council, in North Yorkshire, instead.
The issue is on the agenda after a parish poll organised by Yarm Town Council in May found that 89 per cent of the 24 per cent of eligible voters who took part voted to leave Stockton.
Some people in Yarm have been upset with Stockton Council over various issues including the introduction of parking on the High Street and the number of housing applications given approval in the area.
Stockton Council’s cabinet, who will meet at 4.30pm on Thursday at Stockton Central Library, has been told in a report prepared for the meeting that various financial and other studies would cost a minimum of £100,000.
The agenda also carries a report from an unidentified Yarm GP practice manager “expressing concern over the potential implications on access to health services for residents should such boundary changes take place.”
Bob Cook, leader of the council, put the potential cost of the various feasibility studies at a lower figure, estimating it would cost between £50,000 and £100,000. He said he “didn’t want to lose Yarm” but that the decision would be taken by all borough councillors.
Paul Smith, chairman of the Yarm for Yorkshire campaign, said Stockton Council should listen to the democratic will of the people following the poll result.
He said: “Let’s just hope democracy is represented and hope it’s not another failing as per their track record.
“In relation to the £100,000 figure Cllr Cook has mentioned, I am not quite sure where he got that figure from, but perhaps if Stockton Council had listened to the people of Yarm and spent money on what they want not what Stockton Council want we may not be in this position.”
He was backed by Terry Chapman, former Labour councillor for Yarm, who said that recently introduced parking charges in Yarm could yield about £400,000 a year to the council and some of that money could be used for the studies. "The council is just trying to protect its corporate interests," he said.
Chairman of Yarm Town Council, Peter Monck, said he and the parish council backed the result of the residents’ poll but he personally feared it “would all come to nothing.”
The recommendation of the cabinet committee will be put to the full council, attended by all councillors, at 7pm on Thursday, September 17 when a decision will be made. If it is agreed the issue should be considered by the Boundary Commission, various feasibility studies will then be organised and paid for by Stockton Council.