Suffolk police called to Long Melford Parish Council as ‘angry mob’ turn on councillors
- Credit: Archant
Police were called to “restore order” at a parish council meeting in a picture postcard Suffolk village because one of the councillors claimed he “feared for his safety”.
Ongoing disagreements between some members of Long Melford Parish Council reached a peak at the three-hour meeting last Thursday.
The session was attended by around 60 local people who turned into an “angry mob”, according to some council members.
It is the second time in three years that officers have been asked to intervene in parish meetings in the village. In 2012, they were called when previously suspended councillor Richard Michette lost his temper with the former parish clerk.
Last Thursday’s heated debate was about concerns raised by new councillor Paul Morton and fellow members including Mr Michette.
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Mr Morton has criticised the way some of the more established members make decisions and has asked for the council to be put into “special measures” because he claims his numerous requests for documents relating to council business were ignored.
Another new councillor, Liz Malvisi, has also filed an official complaint against some of her colleagues and the parish clerk.
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But according to council chairman Jayne Lines, who has lived in the village since she was born, the parish clerk has been inundated with an “unacceptable” number of email requests for information. She has consulted the Suffolk Association of Local Councils and is seeking legal advice on how to deal with the matter.
The feud reached a climax at the monthly parish council meeting after Mrs Lines sent out an email encouraging members of the public to attend.
She told the EADT: “Mr Morton and his associates have demanded complete transparency so I thought it was right to invite people to come along to see how the parish council works – all open and above board.
“Because of Mr Morton’s numerous requests, the clerk went through all of the issues with a fine tooth comb and the meeting lasted three hours. Members of the public who had turned out to support us were very patient in the circumstances. However, somebody saw fit to call the police which I think was a complete over reaction.”
She added: “All we are trying to do is achieve the best for the village and most parishioners are behind us.”
Mr Morton said the meeting had resulted in “mob rule”. He added: “The chairman sent emails out to rally the public to Thursday’s meeting.”
He claimed that the meeting descended into a personal attack, with “shouting, jeering and clapping throughout”, which he claimed prevented any debate.
Mr Morton said that he did not recieve agendas for meetings on time, his requests for documents had been ignored, and he claimed there was “no transparency” in the council’s decision making process.
“Long Melford Parish Council may have operated like this for more than 40 years but that has to change. I think some members of the council are against any changes.”
Liz Malvisi said she was “shouted at by members of the public” at the meeting, some of whom told her to “get out of the village”. She added: “It’s not like we are asking for state secrets – we are just asking for information that everyone has a right to see.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police confirmed that officers were called to Long Melford at 7.35pm.
She said: “A member of the public called saying he was concerned that the community meeting was going to break into a fight and he had concerns for his safety.
“Police officers addressed the meeting and gave words of advice but no offences were disclosed and no further action was taken.”