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Councillor faced formal complaint over ‘not being appropriately dressed’ on Zoom call

PUBLISHED: 14:37 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:37 24 September 2020

Timothy Birt, Green Party councillor for Saham Toney on Breckland Council. Pic: Green Party.

Timothy Birt, Green Party councillor for Saham Toney on Breckland Council. Pic: Green Party.

Green Party

A Norfolk councillor has claimed his standards committee is being “politically manipulated” after he received complaints over “not being appropriately dressed” for taking part in council Zoom calls.

Cllr Lynda Turner, Breckland Council's chairman 2019/20. Picture: KEITH MINDHAMCllr Lynda Turner, Breckland Council's chairman 2019/20. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Timothy Birt, Green councillor for Saham Toney, has accused Breckland Council’s scrutiny committee of “systematically failing” after he received a formal complaint about his dress and “corporate background” on Zoom.

At a full council meeting on the video-conferencing platform on Thursday, September 24, Mr Birt said there were “major problems with the process” and called on the council leader to commit to an urgent external review, following a formal complaint he said had been made about him by the council chairman, Lynda Turner.

READ MORE: ‘Self-congratulatory and sycophantic’ - council’s virus response criticised

He said: “Looking at my screen I see a few extra check shirts from my opposition colleagues - that is relevant, because the chairman of this council raised a formal complaint against me including “not being appropriately dressed” and not using a “corporate background” during Zoom.”

Breckland deputy leader Sam Chapman-Allen.Breckland deputy leader Sam Chapman-Allen.

He added: “There were major problems with the process.

“I was officially notified of four formal complaints against me but at the time there were none. It took weeks before the chairman’s complaint surfaced and another week before a copycat.

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“Having been through this process it is clear the right hand of standards doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

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“The crux of the complaint from the chairman is that because I criticised the council, that by default I was criticising officers which is a breach of the code-of-conduct. This is of course utter nonsense, I am permitted to criticise the council and that in no way means I’m criticising individual officers.

“For the record I recognise many officers who work for this council are working extremely hard under difficult conditions.”

And Mr Birt said: “It is clear that Breckland Standards is systemically failing and has been politically manipulated.

“Will you urgently implement an external review so that the residents of Breckland can have some confidence that both district and parish councillors are accountable against a functioning fair and proper system?”

Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen said he would not comment on the complaints against Mr Birt.

He added: “The course of action he needs to raise is with the monitoring officer directly”.

READ MORE: Council warns of ‘risk to reputation’ over £800,000 office revamp


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