A “toothless tiger” was how one councillor labelled a committee’s attempts to resolve a long-running dispute.

Copeland Council’s standards and ethics committee met yesterday to attempt to settle a debate over Parton parish council, as it considered two opposing petitions regarding its dissolution.

Councillor Hugh Branney made the comment as he was frustrated that the borough council seemed unable to take further action, with no power to dissolve the parish council as one of the petitions had requested.

He said: “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do; we seem to be something of a toothless tiger in this position.

“We can hold hands or say: ‘There there,’ but we’re not going to solve the animosity that has split this community, because we don’t have the power to do that.

“It is going to be down to the parish council and those who object to the parish council and they’re very unlikely to agree on any way forward.”

Sarah Pemberton, the borough council’s director of corporate services and commercial strategy and also the monitoring officer, said it could deal with individual councillors but needed to support and guide the parish council as a whole.

“We don’t have the power to do what the petition is actually asking for,” she added.

A recommendation in the report to consider taking further action was amended.

She said: “I would suggest that that now becomes, in terms of voting, that no further action be taken on the petitions and that the parish council – aware of the issues it faces as expressed previously by this committee and now the petition – works with the new clerk that has been appointed to ensure that improvements, particularly around administration and conduct, are made quickly.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendation.

The petition calling for the dissolution was submitted in December and had 135 verified signatures, while the counter petition had 186 verified signatures.

The committee heard anonymous statements from seven people against the parish council and one in support.

Those seeking to dissolve the council raised concerns including the dismissal of the long-serving council clerk, the increasing of the council tax precept by 60 per cent and attitudes towards the public at meetings.

They also complained about several members of the same family and their friends being on the council – with one calling it a “dictatorship” – but Ms Pemberton stressed it was not unlawful.

One statement against the parish council said: “In all my years of living in Parton I have never come across such a divide in a village; it is so sad.”

A statement in support of the parish council said the petition for its dissolution had been prompted by the dismissal of the clerk in November.

“Since he left and matters calmed down, there has not been the misconduct by the public at meetings of the nature that required a meeting in December to be abandoned,” they said.

The supporter said the borough council had been “happy” with the precept increase.

“Nowhere does the report provide any evidence of the borough council having any legal powers to interfere with parish council matters,” they added.

Ms Pemberton confirmed that Cumbria Association of Local Councils had been “heavily involved” in trying to resolve issues.