THE people of Kidderminster will be asked if they want a town council in a "yes or no" referendum, which could bring the 40-year parishing issue to an end once and for all.
A vote will take place in May next year, on the same day as the general election, after Wyre Forest district councillors at a heated meeting last night voted against setting up another community governance review next month, which would have seen Kidderminster residents participate in the same consultation they responded to last year.
The referendum idea was put forward by the ruling Conservatives and accepted by 27 votes to 17 but caused deep divisions in Wyre Forest House's council chamber. Labour and Independent Community and Health Concern (ICHC) councillors labelled the move a "delaying tactic" but Conservative John Campion, suggested they were "scared of the people".
The meeting was called to discuss findings of a cross-party working group, set up after the previous review was scrapped last year when 53 per cent of consultation respondents opposed the idea - although just 3.7 per cent of the town's 5,000 electors voted.
The 10-member group, led by ICHC councillor Graham Ballinger, recommended running the process again at a cost of up to £35,000 but acting council leader, Conservative Marcus Hart argued asking the residents on general election day would boost participation to at least 60 per cent.
Labour's Mike Kelly, who favoured the original proposal, said: "[The amendment] is a delaying tactic. Three times the charter trustees have petitioned the people of Kidderminster and each time it gets fudged." He described the lack of a town council as an "injustice and something people have been fighting for 40 years".
Conservative councillor Anne Hingley, said she was prepared to vote for her party's amendment "if it brings members who were not in favour of parishing on board".
Independent councillor Helen Dyke criticised both proposals, saying: "When the last vote was unsuccessful, my mailbox was not full and people were not phoning me saying this is a terrible thing."
She added: "Out of the two, the referendum is the better idea then please when the residents have spoken at that referendum can we please take their point of view."
Conservative councillor Tracey Onslow added the process smacked of "we asked you the question you did not give us the answer we wanted so we are going to ask you again".
The battle has been ongoing since Kidderminster Borough Council was abolished under local government reorganisation in 1974.