Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Council meeting sparks rows over racism, double standards and memory loss
ONLY a Swanley Town Council meeting about a block of toilets could spark rows over racism, double standards and memory loss. Reporter Abigail Woodcock checks out some of the highlights....well...lowlights.
TEMPERS flared last week when councillors were given a slap on the wrist for twice signing a petition calling for toilets to be reopened.
Labour councillors Janet Sargeant and Angela George were censured at the meeting on April 25 over the petition for loos in Station Road.
The mishap was slated by Tory councillor Victor Southern, who claimed it had wasted the council's time.
However, what followed clearly endorses News Shopper's February claim that Swanley Town Council is Britain's most ridiculous local authority.
First up was Cllr George who made this incredible claim when defending herself over the petition: "This council is playing a game of double standards.
"A cheat believes everyone cheats.
"I believe there is racism in this council."
Tory Cllr Ray Morris said: "You should leave the chamber and report it to the police.
"I'm disgusted you should suggest such a thing."
He later added: "I was on the national government's black list in South Africa. I'm not racist."
Tory Cllr Jim Halford then said: "At my church we have an Indian priest and it's an honour to serve him.
"You are bang out of order and I would like you to apologise.
"I get on well with my ethnic minority brothers and sisters."
Next up was Cllr Sargeant, citing "human error" as her defence for signing the petition twice.
She said: "This motion is not fair or just.
"Every human has the right to a fair, just trial, but Cllr Southern sees himself as judge and jury."
Cllr Searles then accused Cllr Sargeant of having memory problems.
He said: "You have been talking about several matters tonight and it does seem there is a problem with you remembering things coherently.
"I just want to put that out there."
Cllr Sargeant replied: "I do not have a problem with my memory- I’ll go tomorrow and get a letter from my GP.
"How sad it has come to this."
SWANLEY TOWN COUNCIL'S HISTORY OF SHAME
May 2008: The council’s then deputy leader Cllr Robert Woodbridge called the police and alleged Hextable parish councillor Deidre Morris had threatened to hit him with a gavel following the meeting. Police did not pursue the matter.
September 2010: The council’s then leader, Labour Cllr Ian Rashbrook, was accused of assaulting Tory Cllr Tony Henley at a council meeting by poking him in the neck. Council clerk Brian Daley called the police when Cllr Henley refused to leave the chamber.
September 2011: Leader of the opposition, Cllr Mark Fittock said the Conservatives wanted to splash out on a new mayoral chain costing £2,500. Labelling it "unnecessary bling", he said the opposition was wasting money when residents’ jobs were under threat. Cllr Searles denied the claims.
October 2011: Ex-mayor Janet Sargeant was asked to hand in her mayor and consort badges after Cllr Searles accused her of "impersonating the mayor" at public events. Cllr Sargeant strongly disputed the allegations.
December 2011: Town council chairman Cllr Tony Searles distributed a leaflet naming and shaming the 10 people who called for a by-election in the Christchurch ward. Homeowners were left feeling ‘intimidated’ after their names and addresses were printed in large bold text.