THE decision to ban Greenham Parish Council chairman Julian Swift-Hook from having a direct involvement in the control tower project has officially been reversed by fellow councillors.
Councillors originally voted to remove Mr Swift-Hook from the control tower committee in January 2016 after an independent audit revealed a series of serious failings in the council’s running of the project.
However, the last 12 months have seen sweeping changes in the make-up of the council – including the election of Mr Swift-Hook to council chairman in January – leading to a new crop of councillors voting emphatically to reverse the motion at a meeting last Wednesday.
As chairman, Mr Swift-Hook is automatically granted a place on each council committee as an ex-officio member, prompting long-standing councillor Gary Puffett to walk out of February’s committee meeting in protest.
In an effort to draw a line under the issue, Paul Walter, who was elected to the council in December last year, put forward a motion to officially reverse the vote taken by members in January 2016.
He argued Mr Swift-Hook had a “right and legal duty” to be directly involved in the control tower development.
He said: “To elect a chairman and assume they will have nothing to do with the control tower is like electing Theresa May as Prime Minister and not expecting her to have anything to do with Brexit.”
He added: “Five councillors voted in favour of the motion to remove Julian from the committee, but four have since left the council.”
Mr Puffett objected to the motion, but Mr Walter said the idea that Mr Swift-Hook would have a “hypnotic or Svengali-like effect” on other councillors was “ridiculous”.
Mr Puffett replied: “It’s nothing to do with a Svengali-like hold over other members, we are all free-thinking people.
“I stand by what I say regarding the motion that was passed in January 2016.
“It was taken for specific reasons, not because of any vendetta.
“It was based on facts which a brand new set of councillors are getting to grips with.”
Current control tower committee chairman Jon Gage added: “Looking forward, I want the best knowledge and skills regardless of history.
“I’m supportive of him [Mr Swift-Hook] being active on the control tower committee.”
Councillors voted in favour of the motion, with just Mr Puffett voting against. Vice chairman Chris Austin abstained from the vote.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Puffett said he was disappointed with the vote, but added he would look to see how the control tower project now progressed.
The council aims to have the iconic Greenham Control Tower converted into a visitor centre and café by the end of 2017.
More than £700,000 has so far been spent on the development, with the council currently in the process of securing a £150,000 loan.