Ex-chairman hits out over parish ‘gagging’

A CONSERVATIVE county councillor has described a decision by his parish council to gag him at meetings due to his “unacceptable behaviour” as an infringement of his human rights.

Peter Beer, who resigned as a parish councillor in Great Cornard earlier this year, will no longer be able to ask questions during meetings.

Mr Beer, who was censured in April by a local government watchdog for bullying and humiliating fellow councillors, including his sister Carol Todd, said gagging him was also an attack on his freedom of speech.

The decision to silence Mr Beer, who still represents Great Cornard at district and county level, was made during a meeting of the parish council’s policies and finance committee on May 24.

The resolution states that he has a right to attend meetings under the Public Bodies Act 1960, but adds: “In view of the findings of the Standards Committee regarding complaints of bullying and disrespect made against Mr Beer and his continuing unacceptable behaviour at council meetings, this council requires that Mr Beer is no longer invited to speak, by the chairman, at the public forum.”

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Responding to the action Mr Beer said: “I’m astonished, shocked and disappointed. I personally think this is an infringement of my human rights and was not even made at full council by all councillors but during a sub-committee meeting.

“I’m quite sure there are lots of councils that would like to stop people asking questions at meetings because they might not like to hear what they have to say but you don’t see them gagging people.

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“I only ask the questions I know the people of Cornard want asking.”

Parish council manager Michael Fitt said the parish council had consulted with other councils and the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) before making the resolution.

Mr Fitt said: “No one can ask a question unless invited to by the chairman.

“Mr Beer still has a right to attend and we could have carried on as we were and simply not invited him to speak but it was thought better to have the resolution stated.

“He can submit written questions to the council in his role as district and county councillor.”

He said he was surprised the South Suffolk Conservative Association had taken no action against Mr Beer following his hearing in front of the standards committee.

jonathan.schofield@ eadt.co.uk

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