Special meeting cancelled after councillors refused to leave

More than 20 people were turned away from a special meeting after councillors were kicked out for taking notes.

By Molly Williams
Monday, 19 August, 2019, 09:54
Green Party councillors Alison Teal and Paul Turpin holding a plastic pen wrapped in plastic they were given for the Gleadless Valley masterplan meetings. Coun Turpin said it is a symbol of the council's 'naivety' around environmental issues.

Green Party Coun Paul Turpin, representative for Gleadless Valley, said he was was unable to attend a meeting on the progress of the Gleadless Valley masterplan and had asked his colleague Coun Alison Teal, representative for Nether Edge and Sharrow, to attend for him and take notes.

But she said Labour members of the group told her it was ‘unacceptable and tried to remove them’. After Coun Teal refused the meeting was called off.

She said the decision was ‘outrageous’ and the council had ‘made up’ the rule that there cannot be substitutes.

Coun Teal added: “It seems to me they are making excuses…to go to the extreme of cancelling the meeting gives us a pretty strong clue that they were going to discuss something that they didn’t want Green councillors to know about.

“Paul is a really dedicated councillor who likes to know what’s going on and wanted to be there but the meeting was organised when he wasn’t available.

“The decision to cancel it was met with incredulity. One chap stood up and said ‘I’m a busy person, I had to make quite an effort to be here – how will I be compensated?’, other people were shaking their heads, one person said something like ‘is this political shenanigans?’.”

Coun Teal said she was called a liar by Coun Cate McDonald, representative for Gleadless Valley, when she told a member of the community that she did not understand why she could not be there.

Coun Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, who made the decision, said he stood by it.

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He said when the Gleadless Valley masterplan working group was put together there were no Green Party councillors in the ward until Coun Turpin was elected this year. He said he made sure Coun Turpin was involved in the plans despite the ‘wishes of his Labour colleagues’.

Coun Wood added: “I’ve been very strict that anyone who sits in those meetings should have direct involvement with the masterplan.

“Officers were told to check the diaries of everyone attending to see if they would be able to make it – whether they did this I don’t know.

“We are far from the stage where other people can comment on these plans. If I agreed to them coming I may as well have made it a public meeting.”

Coun Turpin said the decision was ‘ridiculous’ and added that he was the only councillor in the ward who lived in Gleadless Valley.

He added that is was not the first time he had disagreements with members of the group. He added that he was given a plastic pen in plastic wrapping by the council for the working group which he said showed their ‘naivety’ about environmental issues.

Local democracy reporter Lucy Ashton was also turned away from a Gleadless Valley masterplan meeting. Despite being held in public the council incorrectly tried to bar her from reporting on the plans.

Coun Wood said the meeting would be rescheduled as soon as possible and that he would ensure Coun Turpin and all other members of the group would be available to attend.