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ONGOING tensions between councillors at Melksham Town Council flared up at a meeting this week.
At the full council meeting, one councillor described others as ‘not particularly pleasant’, whilst another labelled remarks made as ‘vitriolic’.
Tensions flared during discussions about the membership of the council’s committees. This needed to be addressed following the recent announcement that the seven remaining Liberal Democrat councillors were switching to independent – a move that has changed the political balance of the council to 11 independent councillors and four Conservative Party councillors.
The switch by the former Lib Dems was labelled at the meeting as ‘disingenuous’ and an attempt by the group of seven to hold on to control of decision-making powers at the council.
At the meeting, cllr Adrienne Westbrook, one of the councillors to make the switch from Lib Dem to independent, denied that the move would make any difference to the decision-making ability of the council, and denied that the seven councillors would continue working as a group.
Cllr Westbrook said, “I will not have anything to do with certain councillors on this council, I don’t believe they are democratic, I think they have another agenda – I won’t use the two words I would love to use, as somebody will probably come back and report me to the standards committee – there are a couple of councillors here who are not particularly pleasant and I do not want to have anything to do with them. I am an independent, and I will not have anything to do with certain councillors.”
Cllr Martin Pain, who has been an independent councillor since his election to the town council in 2017 replied, “I am sad that vitriolic remarks can be made by councillors in council, that makes me really sad. And doesn’t bode well for the future cooperation of members of this council.
“However it’s not entirely unexpected on my part that this has happened .
“But what I would like to say is that I think the decamping of the erstwhile Liberal Democrats to become independents looks to be disingenuous.
“It looks to me like an attempt to hold on to the positions and the decision-making that has been going on ever since I joined this council.
“(We should) look at this as an opportunity to work together to get our committees sorted out and have 10 months of cooperative peace, rather than political warfare. It doesn’t suit the council, we are too small, and our powers as a council are too important to the electorate as to carry on this way.
“This is not democracy in action, I am totally against keeping the current structure of the committees as they are.
“We can’t chop and change at the whim of a few councillors who want to hold on to the power structure that they’ve been holding on to for too long.”
Leader of Melksham Town Council, cllr Vanessa Fiorelli added, “We must stop with the snide comments and the nasty remarks – and I agree with Martin, we need to move forward and work together. Move on and remember what we are here for – and that is to work for the community.”
At the meeting, the majority of councillors voted in favour of keeping the town council committees as they are. Eight councillors voted for the motion – councilors Aves, Fiorelli, Iles, Mitcham, Watts, Welch, Westbrook, and Illman.
Six voted against – councillors Brown, Hubbard, Pain, Sankey, Wiltshire, and Jeffries.
And one councillor abstained – cllr Andrewes.