I began to take an interest in Shiptonthorpe earlier this year when I heard reports about poison pen letters being sent to a Shiptonthorpe Parish councillor and the then Clerk. These were followed by a letter to the ERYC Chief Executive claiming that the owner of Langlands Garden Centre and PC Chairman Robert Ducker was offering inducements of discounts at his garden centre to anyone who voted for him. This of course is not true. Anyone can have a loyalty discount card at Langlands regardless of who they vote for. Looking back it seems that this was either the work of someone with a sick sense of humour or the beginning of a campaign to slur the reputation of Robert Ducker.
NB: I am not suggesting that any member of the current parish council or anyone else mentioned in this story is connected with the letters. This is simply a statement of fact. All of this is already public knowledge.

Since then, there have been a number of stories which are quite interesting in their own right but when you pull them together you can clearly see the rift between the new councillors and the former councillors with various villagers then supporting one or the other or keeping their heads down. Surely this cannot be a healthy situation for a village with less than 500 inhabitants.

The rhetoric relates to three issues:

  1. The drawing up a new lease agreement between the Parish Council, the Shiptonthorpe Parish Charity and the Village Hall Committee.
  2. An accusation that the PC was being secretive about the fact that ERYC are considering building some new affordable homes in the village.
  3. Political rivalry at ward level.


In April this year 18 people submitted nomination papers to become a Shiptonthorpe Parish Councillor.I started reporting on Parish Councils 50 years ago and I can tell you that I have never before witnessed this level of interest in a parish council. There was clearly something going on here.

In contrast in September 2022 just 5 councillors turned up plus the clerk and 2 members of the public. According to the minutes the council were struggling to fill two vacancies.

On polling day 4 May 2023 police were called to the Shiptonthorpe polling station twice after complaints of intimidation and insults being shouted at the then Parish Council Chairman Robert Ducker.

Within 4 days of being elected the 8 new councillors had decided that they did not want Robert Ducker to continue as chairman even though he had been elected as a councillor. The clerk explained that they couldn’t appoint a chairman without going through due process at the next meeting. In a social media post Cllr David Gough said this was anti-democratic and just plain wrong. He wanted something done before the next council meeting.

I sensed that the clerk wasn’t telling the new councillors what they wanted to hear and they were beginning to consider her to be obstructive.

In August Cllr David Gough gave the Parish Clerk 24 hours to resign or he would instruct his solicitors to pursue a claim of Slander against her.

Not being able to fund the costs of instructing her own defence solicitor and feeling that there was a vendetta against her she resigned in August. This matter will be covered in more detail in a future story.

The village hall lease has been mentioned at various PC meetings since March but at the PC meeting on 21 September 2023 some very serious allegations were made about the conduct of the former Parish Clerk, the former PC chairman and other former councillors. The language used was very strong and included accusations of lying, hiding the truth, attempted cover up, imposing restrictions on the use of the village hall and running up unnecessary and significant legal bills. A member of the village Hall Committee was very critical of The Bugle along with people who commented or liked Facebook posts.

The various statements and comments sounded pretty damning but are they backed up by evidence? Even the documents that have been published by the current PC paint a different picture to the one which was forcefully presented at the meeting.

Cllr David Gough has stated that the new council had lost 3 candidates who would have been really good councillors due to harassment some of which was quite nasty. He did not state who these people were or what sort of harassment they had been subjected to. ‘Shiptonthorpe Forward Together’ put up 9 candidates for 9 vacancies’.

As a result of recent events some people are fearful of leaving their homes in case they are publicly criticised or shamed. People have refused to speak to me for fear they will receive poison pen letters, be shouted at in the street or be publicly ridiculed at a Parish Council meeting. I thought all this was a bit over the top but at the PC meeting on 21 September it was clear that some key players are closely monitoring social media posts and taking names.

Anyone hoping for a speedy end to this acrimony might be in for a long wait as I have been told that the current council have raised a complaint with the ‘Information Commissioners Office’ about.

It is because of the information mentioned above that I have decided to provide some additional facts and analysis during the coming weeks to enable you to draw your own conclusions about what is happening in Shiptonthorpe.

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