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Glastonbury & Street Green Party

Conduct at Council Meetings

Letter to the Central Somerset Gazette from Paul Lund

The March Glastonbury Town Council meeting (Tuesday 10th March) proved once again to be tempestuous. Words of criticism were once again exchanged between fellow councillors reflecting past disagreements.

It’s not the first time that these meetings have become far more antagonistic and argumentative. Over this past year, in my opinion, meetings of the Council have been far less civil and collegial than in previous years.

I don’t know if it’s because of the political divisions which exist, causing members of different parties to try to gain ‘points’ through ignoring or criticising members of other parties, or whether the individuals who behave in disreputable ways are doing so for show They might simply not like the member or members they are targeting. Even the ‘independent’ councillors are not immune to bouts of bad behaviour, shouting and storming out of the room, with papers flying!

I’m sure no one likes to watch the shouting and bullying which goes on across the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons, and we don’t want our town councillors to think they can copy here what happens in Parliament. Not wishing to ‘point a finger’ and name names, but those at the centre of these disputes know who they are!

Personally, I don’t want to see Council meetings conducted so officiously or stiffly that members can’t be good humoured or able to respectfully criticise others, but equally what might pass for humour around a private dinner table is not acceptable in the official and legal setting of the town Council. The councillors are there to do a job, albeit a voluntary one, on behalf of the town or community, and don’t need to belittle or be offensive to other members around the table.

As a member of the public – sitting in the Council Chamber – it is embarrassing to see the bickering, name calling and tempers rising around the Council table. There are one or two notable councillors who seem to be regularly causing trouble and it must be deliberate provocation since this is a public arena with the press usually present, police officers and invited guest speakers and members of the public (electorate) as witnesses.

On opening the meeting at the last full Council, the Mayor turned his attention to the public area and said “I can see we’ve got trouble makers here…” Well, no one I could see in the public seats could be described as “trouble makers,” but the Mayor might reflect on who is troublesome, impolite and uncivil sitting around the table.

Might a consensus of good conduct be agreed, if necessary at each Council meeting, to avoid the situation getting any worse? I recall recent times when we had a woman Mayor (Cllr Sue Thurgood) and her conduct of the meetings was done with humility, good faith and respect to fellow councillors.

Perhaps a new Mayor this year will be the second female Council leader of recent years, and peace will resume. That will be very good for everyone and the democratic process.

My advice to everyone…..

If you vote or not, and haven’t seen your local elected councillors in action, then I would encourage you to go to a council meeting. The next Glastonbury Town Council will be on Tuesday 14th April, starting at 7pm
Paul Lund

paul_lundPaul Lund is a prospective candidate for Glastonbury Town Council in St Mary’s ward.