Maldon council says ‘enough is enough’ after police called to chaotic meeting

  Posted: 05.11.21 at 14:38 by Charlotte Lillywhite

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The leader of Maldon District Council has said “enough is enough”, after police were called to a full council meeting last night (Thursday 4 November) and members left in protest.

The meeting was shelved just minutes after it began when a banned councillor, who arrived with a megaphone, refused to stop shouting and leave the building.

Councillor Chrisy Morris repeatedly shouted “point of order” as Councillor Mark Heard, the chairman, opened the meeting.

Police officers said Councillor Morris was “breaching the peace” after he continued to interrupt the meeting despite members voting for him to no longer be heard.

Councillor Morris said: "I won’t cease this behaviour - you have no authority over me."

Councillors were discussing sanctions against Councillor Morris, after two investigations into his behaviour earlier this year recommended he had bullied council members.

Councillor Morris disputed the investigations’ findings at the meeting.

Members voted to extend Councillor Morris' ban from attending all committees, working groups and outside bodies from 12 months to 18 months.

He does not currently sit on any.

Councillor Wendy Stamp, the leader of the district council, has now issued a statement in response to last night’s meeting.

She said: “Enough is enough.

“The public may be seeing Councillor Morris’ disruptive behaviour for the first time at last night’s council meeting, however this has been a regular occurrence and we cannot tolerate this type of behaviour any longer and put members and staff through any further distress.

“The attacking and disruptive behaviour of Councillor Morris cements the outcomes of two independent investigations into his behaviour.

“Despite the alarming findings in these investigations, Councillor Morris has continued to breach the council’s code of conduct.

“The first item of business last night was to agree the findings in this report and the sanctions it sets out. His actions clearly disrupted debate on the sanctions from taking place.”

She added: “Councillor Heard was concerned for the duty of care of staff present who have continued to be the target of aggressive, intimidating behaviour from Councillor Morris.

“As the disruption continued, the police were asked to attend as Councillor Morris was preventing the democratic business of the council.”

Councillor Morris was asked to leave the building around three minutes into the meeting, but refused.

He said: “You can’t make me, you idiots. You can’t make me leave the meeting - I’m democratically elected.”

When police officers arrived they also asked him to leave, with one saying: “You are breaching the peace by not allowing this to continue.”

Councillor Morris said: “You guys shouldn’t be getting involved in politics.”

A spokesperson for Essex Police confirmed that officers attended the meeting after being called at around 7.30pm to reports of a "disturbance".

They added: "Officers spoke with those present.

"No arrests were made."

The meeting was adjourned and livestreaming suspended after 18 minutes, with Councillor Heard telling an officer: “He’s got no right to be here.”

When members returned after the five-minute break, Councillor Morris continued to interject and shout “point of order”.

The meeting was subsequently abandoned just 20 minutes in, after Councillor Heard advised those present to “rise and walk out in protest”.

There were several items on the agenda left to discuss.

Speaking today, Councillor Stamp added: “It’s important to state that [Councillor Morris’] repeated allegations of corruption are completely unsubstantiated.

“Councillor Morris has not provided any evidence, nor are we aware he has reported these allegations to the police.

“Any further comment at this time may prejudice any further investigations that take place.

“It is disappointing what took place last night prevented important areas of work the Council would have debated, including the Local Development Plan, Langford and Ulting Neighbourhood Plan, and an exciting partnership to support community health, safety and wellbeing.”

Councillor Morris told Nub News: “I’m there to speak my point - I’m determined that I will improve the council.

“I wasn’t abusive, I didn’t swear, I wasn’t threatening - I just simply had a point of order that the constitution allowed me to bring and that was refused.”

He added: “I’m not in this for any other reason than to try and improve the service that the residents should be getting.”

The chaos was reminiscent of the Handforth Parish Council meeting that went viral after descending into chaos earlier this year.

Jackie Weaver, who acted as clerk during the Handforth meeting, said that Councillor Morris “did not understand ‘point of order’”.

She added: “The council kept asking ‘what number’ which is the correct response - what number standing order has been breached.

“Bullying and baiting behaviour as was exhibited cannot be appropriate for anyone much less an elected councillor.

“We urgently need appropriate sanctions for such offensive behaviour.”

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