Mass walkout at chaotic meeting of Keighley Town Council

Keighley News: Councillor Sally Walker Councillor Sally Walker

Keighley’s deputy mayor and seven other councillors walked out of a town council meeting following angry, chaotic scenes in the Town Hall chamber.

The bad-tempered meeting also saw a councillor clash verbally with town mayor Councillor Sally Walker, as well as a furious exchange between another councillor and members of the public in the gallery.

The meeting continued after the walkout, with only 16 councillors remaining in the chamber.

Last Thursday’s meeting degenerated once councillors reached an agenda item that asked them to note a Management and Staffing Committee resolution.

This resolved that the town clerk be asked to return to her post on a three-day, part-time basis until a new clerk is appointed and installed. The resolution also stated the clerk’s post should be advertised as soon as possible.

Coun Amjid Ahmed persistently tried to debate the item, and was repeatedly told to sit down by Coun Walker. “This is dealing with a member of staff – we do not do this in front of members of the public,” she said.

Coun Gary Pedley proposed excluding the press and public to allow for a proper debate. However, Coun Graham Mitchell responded: “The agenda says this resolution is to be noted. That’s what we should be doing. There is no invitation to debate. That should be the end of the matter.”

Tempers flared again after Coun Geraldine Stack challenged a council briefing note, which stated proposed revisions to the council’s own rules were in response to recommendations from auditors.

Coun Stack said she understood the auditors, who are currently investigating the council’s 2012-13 accounts, had made no such recommendations. During an increasingly bitter exchange, Coun Walker said to Coun Stack “Are you calling me a liar?”

The dispute reached a climax when councillors complained that a vote on whether to accept amendments to their standing orders had been taken without a chance for debate.

Coun Corkindale tried to rescind the vote so a debate could take place, and shouted back at members of the public in the gallery who loudly interrupted him.

However, deputy mayor Coun Judith Brooksbank, as well as councillors Geraldine Stack, John Baxandall, Andrea Walker, Amjid Ahmed, Shabbir Ahmed, Khalid Choudhry and Gary Pedley all walked out.

Following their departure, Coun Michael Westerman said: “If the councillors who’ve left had read their paperwork, we would not have needed a debate on this because all the information is there. If these councillors don’t want to do the paperwork they should resign.”

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