Tories resign en masse at Desborough Town Council
The Conservative group on Desborough Town Council has resigned en masse after claims of bullying and abuse.
Chairman Cllr Jane Pearce stood down before last month’s council meeting and her resignation was followed by Cllr Ray Brooks handing in his notice days later.
The Conservatives say Cllr Pearce and her family suffered abuse, bullying and harassment and have now all resigned in support of her.
A letter of resignation to the council’s clerk, seen by this newspaper, said Cllr Pearce had been hounded from office.
The letter said: “We deplore the unpleasantness, rudeness, abuse and bullying which Jane has endured and to which we, ourselves, have also been subject.
“At a time when more people should be affracted into public life and to serve in local government, especially previously under-represented groups such as women and young people, we are particularly sad and upset that a young woman of such talent as Jane, who has devoted countless hours of dedicated service to her home town, should effectively be hounded from office.
“Vigorous political debate over issues of substance conducted in a civil manner is one thing.
“But personal abuse, intimidation and threats is quite another.
“There is much local, legitimate public debate about the future direction that the town of Desborough should take.
“However, given the treatment of our much valued and respected colleague, we no longer feel that this can be conducted at the town council meetings, in an atmosphere of civil and civic respect, conducive to sensible debate and decisions.”
Those resigning are: Robin Cutsforth, June Derbyshire, Allan Matthews, Rebecca Marlow, James Putt, David Soans, Mike Tebbutt and Daniel Howes.
The resignations mean the only two councillors remaining are recently-elected Independents for Desborough leader Cllr Gil Holmes and Independent Cllr Eamon Gilbey.
It is not clear at this stage when any future elections will be held.
Since the resignation announcement, several residents have hit out the Conservatives’ bullying claims.
Karen Harrop said: “When residents have tried to speak [at meetings] we have been told we can’t, they’ve tried to throw people out and they’ve called the police.
“They’ve said that if we’re not quiet they’ll close the meeting.
“They refuse point blank to answer any questions if they don’t like them.
“We’re not the bullying ones.”
David Davison said that when the precept was originally increased, he was the victim of abuse when he challenged a councillor.
He said: “I told the councillor that my great grandfather was a former vice chairman of the Desborough Town Council.
“He asked me his name and I told him it was George Luck to which he replied “well they ran out of luck then when they had you”, not the sort of remark you expect from a councillor.”
He added that he had witnessed one councillor appear to make a threatening gesture to another.
Sharon Ellaway said members of the public have been told to shut up when they’ve asked questions.
She said: “There have been numerous questions raised by Desborough residents around the precept, budget and trying to get honest answers in relation to where and how our money is being spent.
“Members of the public have been told to shut up and the body language of the councillors has been absolutely disgraceful.
“I have not been involved with anything historically so I have attended the meeting with an open mind and what I have witnessed is absolutely beyond belief.”
And Ben Murphy-Ryan said that the councillors’ behaviour at meetins would not have been tolerated in a workplace.
He said: “Many concerned citizens have tried to engage in conversation using different channels, ask questions around how the precept money was being spent and have been closed down.
“The lack of transparency and openness by the Tory councillors has been astonishing and their behaviour would not be tolerated in a business environment.
“It is sad that the real reasons for their resignation are being hidden behind vague suggestions of bullying, when in fact many of us have seen equal if not worse coming from the councillors and their family.”
A Kettering Council spokesman said: “Following this morning’s news, we can confirm that Kettering Council are assessing the electoral implications and options and will provide further clarification in due course.
“A notice of election seeking nominations to fill the vacancies will be the first stage of the process.”
A statement on the Desborough Town Council website said that because of the resignations all council meetings and business have been suspended.