THE chairman of a scrutiny panel was accused of ‘silencing’ his critics during a thunderous meeting – with councillors branded ‘childish’.
A communities overview and scrutiny meeting took place on November 10 (Tuesday) to discuss the Royal Borough’s new environmental crime service – District Enforcement – and the way officers operate within the borough.
Before the item was debated, councillor Jon Davey (West Windsor Residents’ Association: Clewer & Dedworth West) asked if any member has been ‘whipped’ to make sure they are ‘speaking from the heart’ on this topic.
The lead member for public safety and parking, councillor David Cannon (Datchet, Horton, and Wraysbury) said Cllr Davey’s interpretation of the council’s constitution was at ‘variance’ at different meetings and he asked the chair of the meeting, councillor John Bowden (Conservative: Eton and Castle) to take advice on the matter.
No member stated they were whipped or had whipped another councillor.
Councillor John Baldwin (Liberal Democrat: Belmont) advised Cllr Bowden to look at the ‘duty of chairs’ if he needed any clarifications on ensuring a ‘fair and reasonable debate’ and Cllr Bowden said Cllr Baldwin can complain to the monitoring officer if he has issues with his chairmanship.
Cllr Baldwin insisted he didn’t complain about his chairmanship – but Cllr Bowden ordered the councillor to be muted for “disruptive behaviour”.
Later in the meeting, tempers ran high when the chair ignored Cllr Baldwin’s ‘point of order’ about being not able to speak with Cllr Bowden saying he “hoped he would remain muted” throughout the meeting.
Cllr Bowden again ordered for the Lib Dem councillor to be muted, with Cllr Baldwin saying: “Fantastic. Silence your critics. Good job.”
After taking advice from the head of governance, democratic services asked if the councillor could state his ‘point of order’ so they could advise further.
Cllr Baldwin said: “Your [Cllr Bowden] chairmanship has been nothing short of a disgrace.
“I am going to reserve my point of order and my comments for the monitoring officer in the morning.
“I’m done for the night.”
During the heated exchanges, councillor Neil Knowles (Old Windsor Residents’ Association: Old Windsor) said: “This is really childish, honestly.
“You [Cllr Bowden] should be dealing with it now. He [Cllr Baldwin] asked to speak and he has the right to speak as he had a point of order.”