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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Darlington councillors clash over whether they should debate conflicts in the Middle East

Darlington councillors clashed after Conservatives questioned whether they should debate issues involving conflicts in the Middle East after claims the council should focus solely on Darlington issues.

A motion tabled by Conservative councillor Scott Durham at a full council meeting on Thursday urged the council to focus on Darlington and its residents.

The call came after he said the council has recently debated issues which it has no operational responsibility for, or influence over, including the conflict in the Middle East.

In December, the Darlington Green Party opposition members joined its plea for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the immediate release of all civilians captured and detained without legal process.

But the party failed to convince the majority of Labour or Liberal Democrat members, who instead voted for an amended motion which called for a “cessation of violence”. Conservative councillors abstained and left the hall while the vote took place.

Further details on Cllr Durham’s motion stated: “As councillors, we are elected to represent residents within the borough on matters which this council has control over, we are not elected to protest, champion a cause or political ideology.

“The lack of focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by residents, who, quite rightly, expect those they elect to focus on Darlington and nothing else.”

However, the move was labelled ‘meaningless’ and ‘wholly inappropriate’ by opposition parties, who said they were acting in the best interests of worried residents and wanted to show their support.

Council Leader Stephen Harker said the motion was designed to stifle debate at meetings. He added “To say these events aren’t having an impact on people in our town is an affront to those families who have lost relatives. This is an issue which is affecting a significant number of people in the town.”

Green Party members also refused to support the Tory campaign. Councillor Matthew Snedker, party leader, said he had met with people in the town whose families are affected by the conflict. “I have spent time meeting residents who were most grateful that we took the time to debate the issue and the effect it has on their lives.

“This motion is meaningless.”

But Conservative leader Cllr Jonathan Dulstonn said the essence motion proved that scrutiny of the council needs to improve and meetings are currently too long. “This council needs to face the fact that scrutiny is fundamentally broken. The scrutiny committees are not fit for purpose.”

The motion was refused after a majority of members from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party voted against it.

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