Central Bedfordshire Councillors given dressing down over standard of conduct

“It’s essential we as councillors behave with dignity, respect and tact to each other, to members of the public and to officers” said council leader
Central Beds Council headquartersCentral Beds Council headquarters
Central Beds Council headquarters

Central Bedfordshire councillors have been given a second dressing down in three years over standards of behaviour.

Council leader and Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny warned members about their conduct in a collective reprimand during his regular update at a full council meeting.

“I think this is important,” councillor Zerny declared. “I’ve spoken to many of you during the last couple of days via email, but I want to say so publicly as well.

“It’s essential we as councillors behave with dignity, respect and tact to each other, to members of the public and to officers. If we’re to achieve the great things we wish to as a council, we can’t tolerate a breach of that.

“Both I and the chief executive (Marcel Coiffait) have been blunt about that. I want to draw a line over what’s happened.

“If I say anything it’s that this is an important stage to be clear about where we stand on this. As a group of councillors, to be clear, none of us will tolerate any breach.”

Social media has proved to be behind the majority of complaints made about councillors in Central Bedfordshire between April 2022 and the end of March this year.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s monitoring officer received 28 separate complaints, a report to its general purposes committee revealed in March.

Of the 28, seven concerned CBC members while 21 were against local town and parish councillors.

One recent post on Facebook referred to a CBC full council question around councillor allowances initially, but was followed with allegations around a television interview by an Independent councillor, which resulted in death threats to a former Conservative councillor.

CBC’s current projected budget overspend has divided opinion on social media, as well, with the Independent administration saying it inherited finances which were already in a mess, while Conservative councillors have pointed out that the local authority’s reserves are in the top quartile in the country.

A previous rebuke of Central Bedfordshire councillors’ behaviour was delivered by former council leader James Jamieson in November 2020.

He reminded them of their “duty of care” towards local authority staff in social media postings, or risk facing “robust” action.

The Conservative Westoning, Flitton and Greenfield councillor had planned to address the issue as a motion to full council, but withdrew it.

Instead, his Conservative colleague and former CBC deputy leader Caroline Maudlin raised the subject during open questions, saying she was “very concerned with some of the personal comments and attacks on CBC staff by members”.

Councillor Jamieson replied that he’d “asked senior officers, directors and the chief executive, if they see this kind of behaviour, they deal with it robustly, as they do have a duty of care to their staff”.