PENKETH Parish Council is considering a ‘steep’ £10,500 bill to help heal relationships amid tensions between members.

Warrington Borough Council’s chief executive Steven Broomhead virtually addressed members ahead of the parish council’s remote meeting on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Matthew Cumberbatch, the borough council’s director of law and governance, observed the meeting.

Mr Broomhead said a number of concerns, anxieties and frustrations relating to the parish council have been communicated to him and Mr Cumberbatch over recent months.

He says these seem to centre around working relationships, process, culture and governance.

As reported in September, Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC) offered its support to the parish council amid tensions and disagreements between Labour and independent parish councillors.

The independent body provides professional support for member councils in all aspects of their work and, when necessary, can provide formal, legal advice on a wide range of council-related matters.

It came after the parish council’s clerk resigned before their replacement also left the post.

But a new clerk was in place for the meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Broomhead told members they should all try to work in a political environment which respects each other’s views.

He said: “Warrington Borough Council has no powers to directly intervene in the workings of a parish council.

“You are operating your own statutes, you have your own governance procedures but of course we are indeed partners within the town, working together for the benefit of the citizens of Penketh and also obviously the town widely.

“I can’t do anything with you or to you, unless you want to do it yourselves – that is my point really.

“Some of things I think that you need to consider is the importance of parish council democracy in relation to the responsibilities you have.

“You are an unusual parish council because you have a number of assets – operational assets, commercial assets, particularly the pool which I visited some time ago, and other assets.”

The Town Hall chief also put forward a proposal for members to consider.

“We have been talking to an external party who is very, very experienced in coming into situations of challenge and potential change,” added Mr Broomhead.

“And that person would help you review your governance arrangements, your working relationships, your processes, your priorities and try and get more effective relationships embedded within the work of the parish council.”

He said it would also possibly improve the reputation of the parish council.

But Mr Broomhead confirmed the parish council would have to pay around £10,500 for the support lasting 19 days.

He told members they may decide that they can resolve the matters themselves.

Parish council chairman Cllr David Simm, Labour, said the figure ‘seems mighty steep’.

He stated that if members all pull together and start pulling in the same direction he does not think the money would need to be spent.

Cllr Simm said if people think that is the way to go forward he is open to it, but he would prefer not to.

Cllr Dale Solan-Cooper, independent, highlighted the ‘lack of communication’ among members.

He added: “And to be fair 10 and a half grand to have a conversation is pathetic to put it politely, we shouldn’t be spending that amount of money.”

Cllr Geoff Fellows, independent, said the parish council is a paying member of ChALC and should be utilising that service a lot better than it has in the past.

He stated the £10,500 would be ‘quite an expensive bill’ to pay for a group of councillors ‘who may or may not be here’ in six months.

The local elections in the town are scheduled to take place in May.

Cllr Linda Dirir, Labour, said ‘obviously we do think £10,000 is a lot’ and that she would prefer it if members could sort out the problems without the external party.