Wisbech mayor explains why it's not acceptable to use 15 minutes of open forum for residents to criticise individual councillors

PUBLISHED: 16:29 03 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:29 03 April 2017

On Monday February 27, Wisbech Town Council was greeted by a group of protestors and calls for the resignation of the deputy mayor, Cllr Steve Tierney left). He is seated next to the mayor Garry Tibbs.  PHOTO: John Elworthy

On Monday February 27, Wisbech Town Council was greeted by a group of protestors and calls for the resignation of the deputy mayor, Cllr Steve Tierney left). He is seated next to the mayor Garry Tibbs. PHOTO: John Elworthy

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Mayor Garry Tibbs has moved to block future criticism of councillors during the town council's 15 minute open forum.

The February council meeting was rocked by criticism by two members of the public protesting over the election of deputy mayor Steve Tierney to mayor.

At last week’s council meeting Cllr Tibbs warned that in future members of the public would be stopped from attacking councillors.

“The open forum section of the agenda is a not a mechanism for members of the public to make personal attacks upon members of Wisbech Town Council,” he said.

“Furthermore, if a member of the public is of the opinion that a Wisbech town councillor has, through his or her actions, brought the office of councillor into disrepute, the member of the public should refer the complaint to the monitoring officer at Fenland District Council”.

He said they should not raise it publicly at a meeting of the town council.

In a preamble to the meeting Cllr Tibbs explained that up to 15 minutes is made available at the beginning for residents to raise issues relating to matters over which the council has duties, powers or influence.

“There is no facility for a dialogue between members of the public and councillors during a meeting of the town council,” he said.

Referring to meetings being recorded or filmed he said this must be done properly and not used out of sequence or in a way misinterprets the proceedings or in a manner that misinterprets the views of those speaking at the meeting.

The mayor added that he – or a committee chairman – retained the right to ask any person to leave a meeting or to suspend a meeting “if the actions of those in attendance, including councillors, are deemed to be sufficiently disruptive to impede the business of the meeting”.

Opposition councillor Alan Lay said he was unhappy that people could not be allowed to criticise councillors during the open forum.

“I believe that this is way out of order and that it is an undemocratic and maybe illegal order,” he said.

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