Row over “sexist” town council dress code comes to a head

Fran Robinson, Thetford town councillor

Fran Robinson, Thetford town councillor - Credit: Archant

A row over traditional dress in the council chamber came to a head last night after one councillor arrived without her hat.

Thetford Town Councillors in their ceremonial outfits before an event last year.

Thetford Town Councillors in their ceremonial outfits before an event last year. - Credit: Archant

Unlike many of its counterparts, Thetford Town Council holds fast to its mayoral traditions and has regular ceremonial meetings where gowns and cocked hats are required.

Councillor Fran Robinson previously objected to a 'sexist' rule which states women must keep their hats on during ceremonial council meetings while men are allowed to remove them.

She arrived at Tuesday night's ceremonial meeting without her hat - a move which sparked anger from across the chamber.

Before official proceedings got underway, councillor Roy Brame raised a point of order in relation to Mrs Robinson's wardrobe choice.

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He said: 'We have a councillor at the table who is not abiding by the rules of this council or this town.'

Mayor Terry Jermy said Mrs Robinson had sought prior permission from him not to wear her hat in the meeting, according to civic procedure previously agreed at a committee meeting.

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But Mr Brame took such strong objection to the matter that he said he was 'not willing to stay' and left the council chamber.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: 'It is not about sexism at all, it is the fact that she was disrespectful to the town and the town council. I would have had no problem if she had walked in with her hat on and then asked the mayor if she could remove it.'

Mr Brame added that at the next meeting he will be raising an agenda item asking that the council's '800 years of tradition' are either abandoned to make Thetford a 'run of the mill council', or that the rules are 'correctly respected'.

Mrs Robinson said: 'It is a very strange business. I do not know whether it will ever be resolved.'

She added that women having to ask permission of the mayor to remove their hats was 'appalling'.

Let us know your thoughts on the hat debate – email

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