We will not stifle debate

TOWN councillors were urged to moderate their behaviour around the debating table amid claims that the atmosphere at one of their meetings had been hostile and had shocked members of the public.

In the wake of the incident, Coun Matt Rogers tabled an agenda item to “discuss the attitude and behaviour of councillors.”

He said he felt that the behaviour of councillors at the November 6 meeting had not given a good impression of the council to a group of young people who had attended to observe proceedings.

He said that one member of the public had once shown an interest in joining the council should a vacancy arise, but had found the atmosphere hostile and was shocked by the behaviour of some councillors.

“Certain members of the the town council in front of members of the public in my opinion were unprofessional,” he said.

Coun Rogers said councillors did not get things right all the time and admitted that in the past he had said things out of turn.

But he added: “When it comes to addressing each other we might be a bit nicer to one another.”

Coun David Credland agreed with Coun Rogers and suggested that more appropriate conduct was needed.

Coun Joyce Fletcher said she also sometimes found behaviour in the council chamber very unprofessional. Often there were “mutterings” going on around the table during debates which were distracting, although she admitted that she had “also got it wrong before”

Coun Steve Poessl acknowledged that he was one of those who muttered around the table, and he said that sometimes debate was heated when councillors wished to communicate strong beliefs and opinions.

“There is strong debate around the table and stronmg opinions - and long may it continue.” But he said behaviour not only mattered in the chamber itself but also outside in public life.

The mayaor, Coun Joan Cooper said: “There are instances when things could be imporoved on.” And she said the council had taken on board the comments and that improvements could be made, but she stressed: “I will not stifle what I class as healthy debate.”