‘Personal’ and ‘poisonous’ - councillors condemn political climate amid town council row
PUBLISHED: 15:15 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 18:46 21 February 2020
Two long-serving councillors say local government has become “personal” and “poisonous” after a town council became embroiled in a divisive row.
Attleborough Town Council is this week in turmoil following a meeting on Monday evening which saw 50 protestors refuse to leave.
Members had been due to privately discuss a motion calling for Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer to be removed over accusations of bullying made by council staff.
Ms Taylor "categorically denies" the allegations, while Mr Tyrer has declined to comment.
But with police forced to step in and the council chamber evacuated, the meeting was adjourned to a later date.
As a petition calls for the entire council to resign, Conservative party agent, Ian Sherwood, said the saga is representative of an unsavoury political climate.
"My grandfather was a Labour councillor, but I learned a lot from him and we never fell out," said Mr Sherwood. "He used to say 'have your debate in the chamber, but when you walk away you should be able to shake their hand.'
"We seem to have lost the ability in this country to have a reasoned discussion. 99pc of parish councils operate without issues, but unfortunately they happen too regularly."
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Roger Atterwill, who has been involved in local government for more than 15 years, agrees very few councils fall into such disarray.
"I don't think the Attleborough situation is the norm," he added. "It's perfectly fine to have robust debates.
"Some parish councils are quite gentle, where as others try to be at the forefront of change. Both are acceptable."
But Mr Atterwill, chairman of Swanton Morley Parish Council, believes the emergence of social media means local politics is a more hostile environment.
"I started off before social media and it has certainly become more poisonous," he said. "There's no problem with increased accessibility, but people say things they wouldn't have the gall to say in person.
"I use the old adage: you can disagree without being disagreeable."
Mr Sherwood added: "Last year's local election was the first time in 20 years I've had candidates say they could not face standing due to potentially being pilloried on social media.
"Councillors just want to represent their communities, but they are easy targets these days."