ER councillors defend Darryl's civic 'jolly'

TAXPAYERS will foot the bill for a black-tie bash at Beverley's historic Guildhall to mark the retirement of East Riding Council's chief executive.

But the council has refused to say how much it will cost.

Coun David Grange, chairman of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and a Bridlington town and East Riding councillor, is hosting the dinner next Wednesday evening to mark Darryl Stephenson's retirement.

Guests will dine in the elegance of the council owned Grade One listed historic seat of civic pride.

The farewell jolly has been slammed by some councillors as a waste of taxpayers' money.

But Driffield's ward councillors for the ERYC have defended the decision.

Coun Symon Fraser refused to comment whether he would be attending the event but said: "When a valued member of staff leaves any organisation, it is not uncommon for that organisation to mark that contribution by holding a social event and no one can question that contribution that Mr Stephenson has made.

"In some respects, it would be pretty shabby and rude not to mark someone's leaving in some way."

Coun Jonathan Owen said he had been invited but was not sure whether "other commitments" would prevent him attending.

He said: "I assumed the cost was coming out of the civic budget, which is for civic events." He added: "It is not just for councillors, it is for people from the wider community as well, so these things tend to be valuable events."

Felicity Temple, who was also invited but cannot attend the farewell, said: "I can understand that some people are not happy about it but it is traditional for a company to pay for someone's leaving do and this is a big company."

But Driffield town councillor Brent Roach disagreed.

He said: "Whatever it costs it is far too much. It should not be coming out of the public purse.

"If the councillors want to give him a farewell party, let them pay for it themselves.

"Why should the taxpayer fund a send-off for Darryl Stephenson when he has been the highest paid member of the council staff.

"He is not a figure that residents of the East Riding have any love for."

In a statement, Coun Grange said the dinner is for around 30 people, and one of several such events the chairman holds during his year of office.

"The dinner is a low key event for a small number of councillors of all parties and Mr Stephenson to mark his retirement.

"He has helped the council achieve excellent status for two years running and that is one of the reasons we want to say thanks, " said Coun Grange.

Bridlington councillor Michael Charlesworth, who was not invited to the do said he would not have objected to the money being spent if it merited it.

"I think Darryl Stephenson has cost this town enough money already with his madcap schemes. I think it is a case of good riddance. The general opinion of the people of the East Riding is that he has drained this county of enough money already. I have not been invited to the dinner but I wouldn't have gone even if I had."

ERYC councillor Doreen Clark, disagreed. She will be the only other Bridlington councillor attending the dinner, despite all seven getting invitations.

On whether or not the dinner should be paid for out of public funds Coun Clark said: "The Civic Office does give these kind of dinners, when I was chairman of the East Riding Council I gave a dinner for someone who was a Stars In Their Eyes winner who came from the East Riding."

Six other East Riding of Yorkshire councillors, say the function clashes with their regular monthly town council meeting at Bridlington town hall.

Richard Harrap, former Bridlington mayor, said he wouldn't be there as he needed to attend the town council meeting.

John Wilkinson won't be there either, for the same reason.

He added he had assumed guest would have paid for their own meals as is the case with the Bridlington Town Council's own civic dinner.

Bridlington Mayor, Christine Allerston and her consort husband and fellow town and East Riding of Yorkshire Councill councillor, Ray, said they had both been invited to the dinner, but would not be attending for "personal reasons", adding they did not wish to make any further comment about it.

Another Bridlington councillor Margaret Chadwick was invited but has also declined the offer:

Coun Chadwick did not want to comment about the dinner being paid for by the Civic Office.

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