'Shut it down!' - Police called to town council meeting

Chaos in Downham market meeting

Chaos in Downham Market Town Council meeting, with police called after angry outbursts - Credit: Downham Market TC

A town council meeting descended into chaos, with the police called after an outburst from members of the public.

Police were called to a Downham Market Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening after a member of the public accused the council and town clerk, Elaine Oliver, of ruining the town's market.

Mayor Jenny Groom and deputy mayor Jackie Westrop, put out a statement after the meeting saying there had been a "deliberate attempt" to destabilise the meeting.

A man, referred to in a video recording of the meeting as Tony Leach, told the full council meeting that the market had been "devastated over the past two years".

He said this was down to the council doubling rent on the market, a "draconian rulebook" and accused them of taking away their freedom of speech.

When the mayor tried to respond to Mr Leach's accusations, a woman stormed into the room demanding they "shut it down", while a man accused Ms Oliver of being a "bully".

The mayor then suspended the meeting saying Ms Oliver had acted "honourably at all times".

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The town clerk looked visibly shaken and was comforted by councillors.

The live stream of the meeting was suspended for 25 minutes while the police were called.

In their statement, the mayor and deputy described the allegations as "serious and inaccurate".

Ms Groom and Ms Westrop said the man had been joined by others during "his tirade".

"This attack upon our clerk and the smooth running of the council meeting was supported loudly by several members of the public who were in attendance," they said.

"Because of the aggressive nature of the attack the meeting not only had to be suspended but the police were called to intervene.

"Once the police arrived the council was able to resume the meeting, although time restrictions meant that some important business had to be deferred."

The pair said they deplored the events, offering apologies to the people of Downham Market.

Norfolk police said that officers attended the Jubliee Community Centre, and established that no offences were committed and no complaints were made by anyone at the meeting. 

It is not the first time the town's market has been involved in controversy. Tensions rose last summer amid a row over its future and how it is run.