Labour walk out of Council meeting over row on democracy

4 July 2017
Some members of the Labour Group walked out of the full Council meeting on 3 July in protest over the lack of democracy and free speech following the Vote of No Confidence meeting the previous week (26 June) in which most councillors were denied the opportunity to speak in the debate.

Following the June 26 meeting, extensive talks took place between the Chief Executive of Scarborough Borough Council, Jim Dillon, and the Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Steve Siddons. However, Cllr Siddons was frustrated by the refusal of the Chief Executive to allow a properly tabled question to the Mayor at this Monday’s meeting.

Steve said, “The Labour Group wanted to give the Mayor the opportunity to correct his actions the previous week when he denied many Councillors the opportunity to speak because a few public observers had applauded when Cllr Rob Barnett spoke.

A question to Council was tabled, within the proper timescale and rules, which should have seen the Mayor have the opportunity to give assurances to the Council that he would conduct meetings for the rest of the civic year with inclusivity and treat all councillors fairly and equally.”

Following the Chief Executive’s refusal to recognise the properly tabled question at the meeting, Cllr Siddons called a Point of Order which is a mechanism to allow a Councillor to speak on a relevant subject. Cllr Siddons then assured the Mayor that there was no intention to discredit his office but the question needed to be asked.

The Mayor promptly refused that request and told Cllr Siddons to sit down. There then followed a number of attempts by both the Labour Leader and Deputy Leader to ask the question and when Cllr Siddons was told to sit down and stay sat down, the Group Leader, his Deputy and a number of Labour Councillors then excused themselves from the meeting citing a lack of democracy in the Council Chamber.
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Some Group members remained in the Council Chamber to ask other important questions. Cllr Gerald Dennett said “I remained in the meeting to back up what Cllr Barnett was trying to say when the Mayor shut down debate in the No Confidence meeting. Rob had just said that the most important thing a councillor can do is to represent his constituents. Some Labour members had to stay in the meeting to ask searching questions of the Cabinet, to try to gain clarity as to Council policy. The fact that this desire was frustrated when Cllr Mallory declared that she would not release the legal advice over Fight4Whitby’s challenge to the accounts, as she had previously promised, simply highlighted the frustration over lack of transparency in SBC. Her response that “‘in due course’ means ‘in due course'” shows the contempt the leader and cabinet have for the electors of our borough. If there is good reason for not following up on her promise of 8 May, could she not have the courtesy to inform us what that good reason might be?”

Following the meeting, Cllr Siddons hopes that the Mayor will reflect on his actions and provide assurances that future meetings will be better managed with all councillors being given the opportunity to take part in debate, whatever the subject.

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