A WAR of words has erupted after senior district council figures refused the opportunity to defend their policies at a parish council meeting.

Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council chairman John Blackie invited Richmondshire District Council chief executive Tony Clark and leader Yvonne Peacock to address the concerns over cuts to services in the Upper Dales.

This included the cuts to street scene services, public toilet cleaning, and street lighting, as well as the loss of the full-time street caretaker which has been based in Hawes since 1974.

However, Mr Clark refused the invitation, believing the issues have already been addressed.

Cllr Blackie, who is also a district councillor, said the refusal is “not the actions of a supposedly responsible, democratic, accountable, transparent council”.

He said they are “running scared from the duty to be held to account”, after the council made the cutbacks “without any consultation”.

In a letter to the parish council clerk, Mr Clark confirmed operations director Colin Dales attended a parish council meeting in October 2016 with the council’s street lighting consultant engineer.

He claims Mr Dales wrote to the parish council last September and October, and Cllr Blackie has raised concerns at several council meetings, which he “received detailed responses to”.

Mr Clark said: “It is for these reasons that on this occasion, the parish council’s invitation is being declined.”

Cllr Blackie claims it could be a “spiteful response” after Richmondshire District Council voted by 13-12 against increasing council tax for second homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

He said: “This proposal had absolutely no support amongst the local communities in the Upper Dales, including Hawes and High Abbotside, and met its deserved demise last week.”

Cllr Blackie added: “His response is nothing more than a fig leaf behind which both he and Cllr Peacock can hide, and a somewhat cowardly attempt to avoid the legitimate questions Hawes and High Abbotside would like to hear the answers to.”

He has promised to list a Notice of Motion at the next Richmondshire District Council meeting.

He aims to raise concerns about the “increasing tendency of the Conservative political administration to ignore the principles and values of local democracy, and its failure to engage with its parish councils and local communities.”