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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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‘Public’ meeting on future of democracy bans councillors

A PUBLIC meeting into Copeland’s upcoming elected mayor referendum descended into chaos when a group of senior councillors were banned from attending.

By Andrew Clarke

The Time for Change campaign group’s first public meeting last Thursday was disrupted by scenes outside Millom Rugby League Club when the group’s Bern Birbeck denied entry to the party that included council leader Elaine Woodburn and mayor Geoff Garrity.

Mr Birbeck told Coun Garrity he was being denied entry because “we don’t respect you”.

Those banned from the meeting included councillors George Clements, Peter Kane, Mike McVeigh and Gillian Troughton. Some have hit out at Time For Change’s “undemocratic behaviour” and “aggressive attitude”.

Coun Garrity said: “We were there simply to listen to the group and hear their side of the debate but we weren’t given the chance by this so-called democratic group.

“To say they don’t respect the mayor is disgraceful behaviour towards me and all those who have held this position.”

Coun Woodburn added: “They’ve done more damage to democracy than good by not allowing certain people into the meeting. We attended to learn about their cause and we haven’t been given the opportunity, at what was advertised as a public meeting. I think it was a very unprofessional way to behave.”

The Time For Change group, which successfully petitioned for the May 22 referendum to take place, has defended its actions. Spokeswoman Carla Arrighi said: “They would have heckled the meeting and they would have sabotaged it. We wouldn’t have been allowed to get our point across.”

Mr Birbeck added: “A lot of time, resources, energy and our own money had been invested into giving the people of Millom a presentation. Mob tactics by Copeland Council were not allowed at this venue, because it was for the people of Millom.”

A second Time For Change meeting is planned for Captain Shaw’s Primary in Bootle on Monday, May 12.

If Copeland residents vote for an elected mayor on May 22, an election will be held on October 12.

An elected mayor wouldtake the decision-making power currently held by Coun Woodburn and her five-member Executive.

Have your say

The organisers had a difficult choice to make. Exclude the councillors and risk condemnation or have their meeting taken over by those who would wish to disrupt it. - "Stuck between a rock and a hard place". Councillors complaining about being excluded from meetings is "pot, Kettle and Black, given the number of times the public have been excluded from Council meetings.

It would be really good to have a public meeting chaired by say Radio Cumbria or better still TV. In that way the arguments from both sides can be clearly put forward and the audience can ask the questions.

Can't see how such a meeting could be disrupted. Can you?

Posted by Colin Wales on 4 May 2014 at 09:08

Those councillors are a disgrace, fancy accusing Bernard Birbeck to being a bully! tut! This debate has now turned into a school yard tiff between two rival brats. The moneys been wasted, theres no more forget about it. Although I notice there has been a rise in fines dished out to people caught urinating in the street, its the cash cow future!

Posted by Jenny on 3 May 2014 at 07:50

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