01:18PM, Wednesday 24 June 2020
The Conservative administration was accused of being ‘undemocratic’ in a chaotic meeting that saw at least three opposition members ejected or storm out and one telling the mayor to ‘go to hell’.
Tempers became frayed at a full council meeting, held over Zoom on Tuesday, during discussion over changes to the council’s constitution proposed by the Conservatives.
Some of the changes included issuing written answers to public questions during full council meetings, and only allowing a verbal follow-up question. Another change was to limit debate on any full council item to 30 minutes, when there had not previously been a formal time limit.
When Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) proposed an amendment - to reduce the number of signatures required on a petition to bring it before council from 1,500 to 1,000 - the debate was cut short by a ‘closure motion’.
Tabled by Cllr Gurpreet Bhangra (Con, Boyn Hill), the newly-appointed Conservative chief whip, it meant that members voted on whether to end the debate immediately and go straight to a vote on the amendment. This motion was successful, and Cllr Hill’s amendment was voted down.
Cllr Hill was left furious by the premature end of the debate, and the Mayor, Cllr Sayonara Luxton (Con, Sunningdale & Cheapside), ejected him from the meeting. Before he left, Cllr Hill said: “I am ready to go to bed, madam Mayor. Go to hell.”
Eventually the Conservative proposal to alter the constitution was approved, although debate on that matter was also cut short due following a second successful closure motion.
An amendment put forward by Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old WIndsor), asking that the chair and vice chair of overview and scrutiny panels be appointed from different political groups, was also voted down
After the second closure motion was tabled, Cllr Jon Davey (Ind, Clewer & Dedworth West) voiced his displeasure over the proceedings. He said: “This is not democratic. Why am I sitting here? What is the point?”
Cllr Davey was then also removed from the meeting by the mayor for speaking out of turn. Cllr Davey was followed out by Cllr Neil Knowles (Ind, Old Windsor), who called the meeting an ‘utter waste of time’ before leaving.
Speaking about the constitutional changes, Cllr Andrew Johnson, leader of the council, said: “A constitution, as with any document of this nature, is an ever evolving document. There are certainly some issues that have been raised tonight, legitimately, that give us pause for future reflection. This will not be the last time we are updating this constitution.
“This administration was the administration that actually proposed that we had political balance restored to the appointments committee, we actually gave senior members of the opposition an opportunity to interview and appoint senior officers. I believe that is very fair.
“Scrutiny certainly does need improvement, you will get my updates on Thursday in relation to the CIPFA report. It's a shame that one former member of my predecessor’s inner circle stormed out before hearing what I’ve got to say.”
Later in the meeting, a third closure motion was tabled by Cllr Bhangra, cutting off debate on the proposed Horton and Wraysbury Neighbourhood Plan, and preventing Cllr Ewan Larcombe (Ind, Datchet, Horton & Wraysbury) from commenting on the matter concerning his own ward. The neighbourhood plan was voted through by members.
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