Wisbech town council under fire - from former mayor - for not sending anyone to funeral of another former mayor who died last month

Controversy over lack of civic representation at the funeral of former Wisbech mayor Patrick O'Dell.

Controversy over lack of civic representation at the funeral of former Wisbech mayor Patrick O'Dell. - Credit: Archant

Former mayor Nick Meekins criticised Wisbech Town Council for not sending a representative to the funeral of another former mayor, Patrick O’Dell.

Mr O’Dell, who was mayor in 2002/3, died last month but his funeral went ahead without any Wisbech councillor, or current mayor Steve Tierney, in attendance.

He also criticised the council for not flying the Union Flag at half mast out of respect.

“There are 17 Conservative (and one sacked ex Conservative) councillors currently in office yet not a single one of them attended the funeral,” said Mr Meekins.

“I find this disrespectful and unacceptable.”

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Town clerk Terry Jordan said today: “I understand that there has been some criticism levelled at the council for not ‘honouring’ the late Patrick O’Dell (the mayor of Wisbech for the municipal year 2002/03).

“At the request of the mayor, I am hereby setting out the council’s position in this matter.”

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Mr Jordan said there was no automatic representation from the council at a funeral of a past mayor.

“However, if the council were to receive a request from the family or executors, it would be considered,” he said.

“The council received no contact from the family or executors at all. An officer of the council had been told of Mr O’Dell’s poor condition in hospital by a third party and was then informed again by that person of Mr O’Dell’s subsequent death.

“The council received no notification of any funeral arrangements. Notice of the funeral was given simply by way of a public notice in a local newspaper.”

He added: “I am fairly sure that the majority of the current Wisbech town councillors, who did not serve on the council at the same time as him, would not have known Mr O’Dell. Those who had served with him could make their own decision as to whether to attend the funeral.”

He said the council was not able to fly, at half mast, the Union Flag, “as unfortunately, when we went to fly the flag, we discovered that the rope had broken and, until someone can get to the top of the pole, we cannot retrieve the other end of the rope.

“In accordance with a decision of councillors’ the smaller flag pole has been taken out of service.

“Wisbech Town Council did stand for a minute’s silence in remembrance for Mr O’Dell at its February 26, 2018 meeting; the minutes reflect that fact.

“We hope to address the problem with the flag pole very soon.”

Mr Meekins, mayor in 2010/11, said: “So the council that flew both the Union and St George’s flags continuously for months at a time in 2016-2017, when they shouldn’t have been flown, per information from the College of Arms, can’t fly one when they should be flying it.

“It is ironic that the funeral took place in the week that it was reported that one of their numbers, Bob McLaren, had been sacked for being lazy.

“Council leader Samantha Hoy stated that his work and conduct ‘have fallen a long way short of what the Conservative group expect...and the people... deserve’.

“I would have thought that attending a former mayor’s funeral was work and conduct that the current mayor and council leader, at least, should have undertaken, and it certainly falls a long way short of what I, and others, expect and Patrick deserved.

“This is the group of councillors who have decided to raise the council tax to rent and manage the Castle, who can’t even manage their own flagpoles properly, and don’t have the courtesy to be represented at a former councillor and mayor’s funeral.”

Cllr Hoy said via Twitter – and before Mr Jordan’s statement - that the flag had been flown at half mast when Mr O’Dell’s death was announced.

She also tweeted: “There’s no policy to send representation. Most councillors now were not on council with Patrick. I Cox, Hill and Oliver were. I was unable to get time off work.”

“Councillors were not invited to the funeral. I was told about it via member of public two days before-too late to book leave.”

Mr O’Dell served as an Independent and a Conservative councillor for the Staithe Ward.

In 2014 Mr O’Dell canvassed and signed the nomination papers for former Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat to fight a local election.

““Mr O’Dell believes in my honesty and integrity and is fully supportive of my campaign,” said Mr Murat at the time.

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