PARISH councillors have been accused of acting like 'little Hitlers' by controversial newspaper editor Piers Morgan in a row over a village cricket match.
Mr Morgan, one time editor of the Daily Mirror and the News of the World, batted a series of verbal boundaries at Newick parish councillors for what he described as their "pathetic, spineless and puerile" behaviour.
"By the scale of council horror stories I heard when I was editing newspapers, I don't think I have come across one as ridiculous as this," he said.
"Burning them at the stake on bonfire night would be too good for them – I don't think we will do that but I would like to try!"
Mr Morgan, a Newick resident for more than 30 years, bowled his googly after the parish council reprimanded Newick Cricket Club for staging a match against Lashings, the international professionals' team, on the King George V Playing Field.
Mr Morgan, a member of the club but speaking out as an individual, was asked to arrange the fixture with a line-up of players including New Zealand all rounder Chris Cairns, former West Indian opener Richie Richardson, Aussie Test star Greg Blewett, South African Herschelle Gibbs and Indian Test player VVS Laxman.
As the King George V field is a public area Lashings agreed not to charge entry but to rope off the area and ask for donations of 5 for adults and 3 for children. Anyone who objected would be allowed in "free".
Mr Morgan stressed that besides bar money, Newick CC had not profited "a penny" from the day with all the gate money – believed to exceed 10,000 – going to Lashings and two local schools.
But Mr Morgan, who emphasised that he was speaking as an individual and not as a member of Newick CC, said parish councillors patrolled the boundary during the matches and have since made phone calls and knocked on doors trying to get people to complain about being "charged".
"It is one of the most pathetic, spineless and puerile things I have ever seen, even by parish council standards," he told the Middy. "Here we had a team of world class cricket players and 1,500 people turned out on one of the most enjoyable days the village has seen for years.
"Every young cricket fan for miles around was able to see some of the world's greatest players on a village playing field. I would imagine most parish councils would think that was a very good thing for a cricket club to do and 99.9 per cent of people who came were willing to pay."
He said Lashings was "outraged" by its treatment by the parish council and had never encountered problems like it before.
He alleged the parish council had threatened Newick CC that if it transgressed again its permission to use the King George V field in the future might be withheld.
"I think a lot of cricket club members feel that if we don't acquiesce we will be prohibited from playing there but I have never acquiesced to this sort of behaviour in my life. I waged a campaign against the British government against the Iraq war and I'm sure I can deal with the parish council."
He went on: "The parish council's contribution to the village is to install a hut in the middle of the playing field where the local layabouts and louts go and take drugs and generally misbehave. If they spent as much energy on stopping that as harassing the village cricket club they might do some good.
"I suggest these are the wrong people to be running the village. They are terrorising the village and if they had any decency they would resign. I suggest we have an emergency meeting to remove them. I might even stand as chairman myself."
An advertisement placed in the Public and Legal Notices column of the July 7 edition of the Middy said: "Newick Parish Council would like it to be known that Newick Cricket Club did not have the authority to rope off and charge an entrance fee to the King George V Playing Field for their day with Lashings on 26th June.
"The King George V Playing Field is a public area and as such is open to all members of the public and is illegal to make use of it for commercial gain in this way."
Vice chairman Kevin Duncton said the council was not prepared to make any further comment as the matter was in the hands of its solicitors.