THE leader of a crisis-hit Yorkshire council has hit out at “keyboard warriors” for demanding his resignation following a “torrent of negative publicity”.
In a two-page letter, the chairman of Keighley Town Council, Coun Graham Mitchell, told councillors that residents still regarded the authority positively despite bad publicity over the past year.
I have endured resignation demands from keyboard warriorsCouncillor Graham Mitchell, chairman of Keighley Town Council
The letter marks the end of his tenure as the mayor and chairman and follows a difficult year in which the council has been the subject of critical audit reports, one of which prompted a police investigation.
Coun Mitchell urged councillors seeking re-election not to feel uneasy while out campaigning “because of the torrent of negative publicity which the council has endured in the last 12 months”.
He added: “You may be surprised how many ordinary genuine electors do not see it like this, and actually regard this council positively.”
He told colleagues that people appreciated the council’s generosity with grants, sponsorship and awards.
He claimed residents appreciated what the council had tried to achieve in the Civic Centre, where the shop, museum and bar recently closed due to concerns over a lack of trading powers.
Coun Mitchell stressed organisations made mistakes, and compared his council to under-fire banks.
“Many, including some of you, have said that we were wrong, and certainly this council has made mistakes, but none of them deliberately or wilfully. Mistakes are made within all organisations - think in recent times of the Co-operative Bank, South Yorkshire Police, the Metropolitan Police, some principal authorities, Tesco and HSBC, and many others.”
The town council, he added, had recognised its mistakes and efforts were being made to put it back on track.
He then criticised “keyboard warriors” for asking him to resign over the council’s troubles.
Coun Mitchell said: “A personal burden which I have endured throughout the year has been the persistent demands from keyboard warriors, often living outside the parish, on social media networks, that I should resign, as if that would somehow immediately solve all the problems of the council.”
Despite the problems, he maintained that he had felt pride to wear the mayoral regalia on civic occasions.
“Where I have offended you, I apologise, but what I have done, I have always done for the good of the council. I have been proud to wear the ancient Keighley Regalia on over 80 occasions this year and to represent the town of my birth to the best of my ability.”
He urged councillors who will remain on the council to “cherish your staff”, adding: “Do not create situations which restrict or compromise their efforts. Because without good staff, the council will simply collapse around you, and you will have nothing.”
One critic of the council was left “baffled” by the letter.
Campaigner Elizabeth Mitchell, who helped expose wrong-doing at the authority, said: “Those keyboard warriors he refers to were the very people who uncovered the wrong-doing and reported it to auditors. The very same people the council thanked and paid tribute to a few months ago.
“The problems are of the council’s own making - that is where the blame should lie.”