What a carry on! Norfolk parish councillor lifted out of a meeting on a chair
PUBLISHED: 09:05 29 September 2011
Archant © 2011 01603 772434
A north Norfolk parish council meeting descended into farce when a call was lodged to police and one member was lifted in his chair and carried into the car park for refusing to leave.
Fifty-seven-year-old Kevin Craske remained seated when ordered out of the room by council chairman Tony Serne and described what followed as like being in a scene from the television comedy The Vicar of Dibley.
Just minutes earlier Mr Serne dialled 999 – though police did not deem it an emergency and did not attend.
The bizarre scenes at an extraordinary meeting of Briston Parish Council are the latest twist in a long-running dispute centred on Mr Craske’s wife, Sandra, 53, who has been the clerk of the council for 23 years but is now suspended.
Three councillors, including Ronald Eggleton, 77, who served on the council for 44 years, 15 of them as chairman, have resigned.
Mr Craske, of Providence Place, Briston, near Fakenham, said: “The September 7 meeting was called to discuss the situation with my wife, the clerk.
“I was told I had to leave because I had a prejudicial interest. But procedure was not correctly followed.
“The fourth item on the agenda was ‘to consider a resolution to exclude press and public from the meeting to discuss a confidential employment matter.’ There should have been a fifth item on the agenda, along the lines of ‘to discuss employment matters pertaining to the clerk’ but there was no fifth item and nothing for me to declare an interest in. So there was no valid reason for me to leave the meeting.
“Councillors decided to take the meeting into another room and left me with Mr Serne. I remained in my chair so was unceremoniously lifted up by two councillors and placed in the car park.
“I did not put up a struggle. I was elected on the back of vowing to make sure things are done correctly. When you are talking about potentially sacking someone it is very important things are done correctly.
“The whole situation was farcical and it felt like I was in a scene from The Vicar of Dibley.”
Approached by the EDP, Mr Serne said: “It is perfectly true three councillors have resigned. But apart from these three and councillor Craske, Briston Parish Council is united.
“This is a very complicated and complex situation and it would be wrong to comment further at this time.”
Norfolk Police confirmed they received a 999 call, all parties involved had been spoken to but no further action would be taken.
Mr Craske said he would take up this and other incidents with North Norfolk District Council.
He said Mr Serne acted beyond his authority in suspending Mrs Craske and the suspension was due to a personal issue.
Mrs Craske previously made a formal complaint about Mr Serne’s general conduct though no further action was taken towards him.
The affair began when councillors arriving for a meeting on July 4 were trold by Mr Serne it was being postponed for reasons he was unable to explain.
A few hours before the rescheduled meeting on July 11, Mrs Craske was told by Mr Serne not to work and the council voted to suspend her at a later meeting.
Seven weeks afterwards Mrs Craske received a letter listing things she was alleged to have done - including walking out of a meeting without explanation, posting inappropriate comments about the council and some councillors on Facebook and not including details of expenditure and income on minutes.
Mrs Craske, who is on full pay while suspended and threatening an industrial tribunal if sacked, says she had no conversation with Mr Serne about her conduct and received no warnings. She said: “The problem is mud sticks, and I want to make clear this is not related to any sort of financial fraud.
“I became ill from stress at work a while ago but now I am fine. I’m in a surreal situation and looking in from the outside it feels like I’m watching a sitcom.”
Dorothy Pummell and Duncan Jeary have also resigned as Briston parish councillors, along with Mr Eggleton.
Mr Eggleton said: “In my 44 years on the council I have never seen a situation like this. I am not pleased with the way things are being run and cannot work with the current chairman.
“I think the clerk has not been treated correctly and the situation has dragged on. It should not have gone on this long and the council does not seem to know what it is going to do next.
“I feel that the council is spending too much time on these internal issues and not enough time on the village.”
*The next Briston Parish Council meeting is due to take place at The Copeman Centre at 7pm on Monday. Mr Craske is planning to attend.