Councillor defends right to be a Mason
THE leader of Torridge District Council has defended his decision to become a Freemason after a councillor resigned from the authority’s Conservative group.
Barry Parsons sees no problem with his affiliation with the Freemasons.
He spoke out after Kenwith ward councillor Kathy Murdoch quit the Tory group, saying she could not continue under the current leadership.
The row kicked-off at Torridge’s annual full council meeting on Monday, after the roles of leader and deputy leader had been voted on.
Conservative group leader Mr Parsons was voted to lead the council for another year.
After the vote was taken Mrs Murdoch stood up, gathered her papers, and said: “Under this current leadership I cannot continue. I am handing in my resignation. Sorry I have got to go.”
After she left Mr Parsons addressed the council.
He said: “About 12 months ago I was asked to go to a Freemason meeting. I went along out of interest for community groups.
“I enjoyed the evening and was asked to go again.
“I joined the Masons, although I have only been to three meetings in the last 12 months because I have been busy.
“If that offends people, well there is no politics involved and I have not used it to my advantage.
“The organisation generates more funds than any other charity in the country, other than the lottery.”
Mr Parsons, who represents Forest ward, said he was aware that a Freedom of Information request had been made to the council about his membership of the Freemasons.
He said he was saddened by Mrs Murdoch’s remarks.
Speaking after the meeting Mrs Murdoch confirmed she was resigning from the Conservative group but not standing down as a councillor.
Mr Parsons had no idea Mrs Murdoch was going to resign.
He said: “Kathy said that she could not work with a ‘Mason controlled’ council.
“As leader of the council and of the largest political party on the council, I felt it right to respond, giving my reasons for becoming a Mason.
“I have never kept my membership a secret and I am sad about what was said at the meeting.”
Five Conservative district councillors are Freemasons, according to the register of members’ interests. As well as Mr Parsons there is Andrew Eastman, David Fulford, Andy Boyd and John Himan.