Councillor resigns after firing off critical emails

By Ginny Ware   |   Totnes Reporter   |
Thursday 10th March 2022 9:05 am
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David Matthews
David Matthews (Contributed )

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Officially, David Matthews has resigned from Totnes Town Council due to other commitments, but in a second letter to members he stated that his “conscience and wellbeing” would not allow him to support their “fanciful and very expensive” projects.

Mr Matthews went on to accuse his former fellow councillors of having a “perceived assumption of moral superiority” when it came to people with “minority views or opinions.”

He fired off his critical letters to councillors last week, outlining his reasons for leaving their ranks, before signing off with his “very best wishes” to them all.

Mayor, Cllr Ben Piper said whatever their differences councillors were sorry to see David go.

“We shall miss his good heart, concern for the well-being of our community and mellifluous tones,” he added.

Totnes Mayor Cllr Ben Piper
Totnes Mayor Cllr Ben Piper (Contributed )

In his first, official resignation letter, Mr Matthews said his many other commitments, including broadcasting work and counselling, mean he could not give council work the commitment it deserved.

But in the same letter he hinted at other reasons, which he outlined to councillors in a follow-up letter of the same date.

In that letter, he acknowledged the council does “numerous” things well but went on to add: “From my perspective, though, there is a tendency for the current council to engage in imaginative, sometimes fanciful - and very expensive projects- too much so

for my conscience and wellbeing.

“I wish you well with these but hope that the council does not fall into accompanying, avoidable financial, or other, difficulties as a consequence.”

Mr Matthews also referred to February’s full council meeting, the last one he attend in his capacity as a councillor, when time ran out for some residents to speak during the public question time.

“Another issue which does concern me,” Mr Mathews wrote “A perceived assumption of moral superiority regarding certain issues, by the council, regarding minority views or opinions and the expression of such.

“It is preferable to allow the expression of an opinion or a complaint from a citizen, or indeed a fellow councillor, in respectful silence, then discuss and/or judge afterwards than to prevent, or to attempt to silence, as witnessed and experienced during the full council meeting on 7 February 2022.”

Mr Matthews rounded off his letter by making a few suggestions for councillors to consider, including opening up land for growing food for the town; acquiring a property for use as a warden-run hostel for the homeless; and encouraging more use of local skills such as craftsmen, tradesmen and artists.

He also suggested the council create a “ready fund” made available in cases of extreme hardship - either locally, nationally or internationally.

Mayor, Cllr Ben Piper said: “David might not have made the most contributions to debate by number, but his deeply considered summary of proceedings sometimes served to remind us of the really aspirational things in life rather than merely the attention to the albeit limited nuts and bolts available at our tier of government, but nevertheless essential to ensure the prosperity and wellbeing of the town.

“I certainly hope he will continue his valuable work fighting for the Totnes Hospital Minor Injuries Unit, that it is pushed up the county council agenda and that he is successful in getting it reinstated ASAP.

“And that he might, finally, find the time for a cuppa so we might debate some of the deeper philosophical questions that are of concern in the community, face to face.”

Mr Matthews was elected to the Totnes Town Ward in May 2019.

An election to replace him will be held if 10 or more Totnes Town Ward residents request one by writing South Hams Council’s returning officer on or before Monday March 14.

If there is no call for an election, a new councillor will be co-opted onto the council.

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