New group to protest outside Fenland Hall, March, ‘for mean-spirited and very public humiliation’ of UKIP councillor, 78, facing conduct hearing

UKIP county councillor - and town councillor- Alan Lay facing a conduct hearing at Fenland Hall. A n

UKIP county councillor - and town councillor- Alan Lay facing a conduct hearing at Fenland Hall. A new group Wisbech Voices is protesting at his treatment. PHOTO: Steve Williams - Credit: Archant

A newly formed group of residents calling themselves Wisbech Voices plan a protest on the steps of Fenland Hall, March, tomorrow in support of a 78-year-old councillor facing a conduct hearing.

Mayor Cllr Gary Tibbs and deputy mayor Cllr Steve Tierney;it is Cllr Tierney's complaint to the cond

Mayor Cllr Gary Tibbs and deputy mayor Cllr Steve Tierney;it is Cllr Tierney's complaint to the conduct committee about an exchange between Cllr Tibbs and Cllr Alan Lay that has prompted a conduct hearing. PHOTO: Wisbech Camera Club - Credit: Archant

The group says it has come together in recent days “from different walks of life, and different political allegiances” to support Cllr Lay who they insist has been treated “unfairly” by the conduct committee of Fenland Council.

The hearing will handle a complaint by Wisbech deputy mayor Steve Tierney – the Tory nominee beaten by the UKIP veteran in one of the surprise results of the 2013 county council election – about what was said at a town council meeting in Wisbech.

Cllr Lay alleges he was threatened by the mayor Garry Tibbs – an allegation that led to demands by Cllr Tierney for a retraction. The UKIP councillor has refused.

A spokesman for Wisbech Voices said they were an “an informal group thrown together by a shared love of the town” but were concerned by the state of local politics.

“Our purpose is to draw the attention of local people to what the group believes is the negative effect on Wisbech, both present and future, of town and district councils run by a tightly-knit clique of politicians who seek to stifle debate and demean anyone who disagrees with them,” said the spokesman.

The group says it may in the future contest elections to effect changes but it was early days: matters came to a head over the Cllr Lay issue.

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The spokesman said: “The group believes it to be a mean-spirited and very public humiliation of Councillor Alan Lay, over what seems to be a trivial exchange of words at a town council meeting.

“People who follow local politics, especially on social media, will be aware that Alan Lay and, more recently his wife, Brenda, have been the subject of mockery, rudeness and downright unpleasantness at the hands of some fellow councillors.

“The process by which his so-called misconduct will be examined is completely and utterly stacked against him, due to its membership, and the likelihood of Alan getting a fair hearing is slim to none.

“In one simple sentence, what is the message of Wisbech Voices to other people in the town? It is this: Wisbech Voices believes that in our town, of all places, bullying has no place in the school playground, the workplace or in local politics.”

A public statement of principles of issued by the group today has been signed by Fay Allen, Adrian Ford, David Prestidge, Dave Veal “and others on behalf of Wisbech Voices.

Tomorrow’s hearing was sanctioned by the two independent members of the conduct committee and committee chairman Samantha Hoy. However Cllr Hoy did not vote on whether to escalate matters to a full hearing as she was present and spoke during the town council meeting in Wisbech that form the backdrop to the allegations.

Cllr Tierney claims that during a town council meeting discussing the minutes Cllr Lay claimed that Cllr Tibbs had threatened him at the previous meeting.

“At this point the whole room gasped, mostly because we were almost all at the previous meeting and there was no ‘threat’ made or anything like it,” says Cllr Tierney.

“Given that claiming to be ‘threatened’ was quite a strong statement that risked damaging the mayor’s reputation and the reputation of the council, I then commented that Cllr Lay should withdraw that remark as perhaps he had mis-stated.”

Cllr Lay described it as a “pathetic complaint that will be getting out of proportion unless common sense prevails. It is time to stop this escapade now.”