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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Police called to parish council meeting 5th May 2010 - exclusion of the public.


Report on items 3 – 5

To decide whether to exclude the Public and Press during discussions of Items
4 and 5 on the Agenda due to the confidential nature of the business to be



Martin Brookes has been subjected to merciless bullying over the last year or two and I suspected that the motion to exclude the public was intended to allow some Council members to continue to bully Martin in camera. So, given that Cllr Brookes was of the opinion that omission of the relevant Standing Order on the agenda made exclusion of the public illegal, I remained in my seat and did not leave the Council Chamber. I made it clear that I intended to stay. The meeting waited whilst Cllr Alf Dewis, who is on the police committee, called the police to have me ejected.

When the very delightful and rather nice young P C Ike (2113) attended I greeted him and asked for his name. I then asked if he was related to David Ike.

I was well aware that when P C Ike asked me to leave I would be committing a public order offence if I decided to remain. However, if Councillors are wrong about ejecting the public, their use of the police in ejecting me from the meeting is now an abuse of public office. And anyway the poor P C would not have been up to carrying me bodily from the room, his back would never have recovered and he did seem such a nice young man. I asked him when he finished his shift – 10 pm apparently. He was then invited to join us for a drink in the Hornblower – sadly he didn’t accept the offer. Martin later accused me of shameless flirtation. The lovely Police Constable was far too young; my invitation was merely an overture of amicable hospitality and an attempt at some recompense for having been needlessly summoned to eject me from what should have been a public meeting.

Alf Dewis and Charles Haworth then proposed that since the Town Clerk had alleged that Martin Brookes was bullying him – presumably by asking properly put questions which are a bit awkward to answer, but well within his remit as a local Council representative – that Martin Brookes should be banned from visiting the Council Offices in Victoria Hall and banned from talking to, writing to, emailing or phoning the Town Clerk or the Assistant Clerk.

When Cllr Brookes remonstrated that no complaint had been lodged against him by the Assistant Clerk, both Cllrs Haworth and Dewis said that it was not possible to separate Cllr Brookes from Richard White, the Town Clerk, without banning him from communicating with the Assistant Clerk too!

This was a disingenuous and spurious argument, which was stated again and again by both Cllrs Haworth and Dewis.

The outrageous proposal, proposed and seconded by Cllrs Dewis and Haworth, should bring into question Cllr Alf Dewis professional expertise as an H R Consultant as well as his suitability to hold public office. No doubt the reason for holding this meeting in camera was to escape public scrutiny of an unacceptable, possibly illegal and wholly malicious proposal to exclude Cllr Brookes from the Council offices and make it impossible for him to serve his electors effectively. Surely it would be best to suspend the Clerk rather than insist that a local Council representative be deliberately and maliciously frustrated in carrying out his public duties? I despair. The brainpower of some Councillors is somewhat below par - or at least it was last night.

It seemed to me that this was a gross interference in the democratic process and the proposal itself was illegal and should never have been allowed to be considered. When, after much discussion, the proposal was put to the meeting two Councillors voted in favour of the motion – Cllr Dewis and Cllr Haworth. Two voted against and three abstained. Quite how a Councillor is meant to do his duty as an elected representative by being banned from Council premises, outside public meetings, beats me. Will they try to use this motion to prosecute Martin Brookes, when he continues to serve the people of Oakham, at some future date?

Having reached an impasse the meeting voted on yet another proposal to exclude Martin Brookes from the premises only when the Clerk is back in situ. They have now asked Cllr Brookes to make an appointment to visit the Council offices. Since the Clerk is away ‘ill’ there seems to be no good reason even for this stricture. I firmly believe that Martin Brookes is being treated in an arbitrary and biased manner, and that no other Councillor would be treated the same way in similar circumstances. This amounts to bullying. They also demanded Cllr Brookes attend mediation. Initially it was suggested that this mediation happen under the auspices of the Councillors ‘Staffing Committee.’ Run by Councillors themselves. Since most Councillors refuse to communicate with Martin Brookes this was clearly not acceptable. Finally the meeting agreed to bring ACAS in. Hopefully ACAS will point out to the Clerk that being required to do his job effectively and without bias does not constitute grounds for allegations of bullying.

Things have got to such a pretty pass that Cllr Brookes must surely now appeal to the Electoral or Local Government Commissioners to uphold democracy in the parish of Oakham.

I hope the Council do not intend to drag their heels in providing Cllr Brookes with details of the emails and references to him on their computer system. I have now asked for similar information myself and trust that Councillors realise they cannot just delete references to us and then claim nothing exists. All past records – and those deleted – need to be examined and furnished to both Martin Brookes and to me.

If the evidence is provided, which under the Freedom of Information Act we should properly expect it to be, we may have some arresting times ahead.


N.B. *No Act or notice of the relevant Standing Order was given on the Agenda – item proposing exclusion of the public – item 3. It was Cllr Brookes’ contention that this omission made the exclusion of the public illegal. I was keen not to be excluded since I felt a small coterie of Councillors wanted to bully Martin Brookes with false allegations of bullying and I felt that they should not be allowed to do so in camera. The public should attend and hold the Council to account. Particularly since the sole purpose of the meeting was to make unsubstantiated and ill judged allegations of bullying against Cllr Brookes. Cllr Brookes has himself been the target of merciless bullying over the past year or two.

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