Desperate chairman’s dash to the loo was a Bedford Council ‘rule breaker’

A set-to-bursting committee chairman apologised for breaking council protocols after making a just-in-time desperate dash to the loo during a marathon meeting.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 5:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 5:12 pm

Monday’s meeting of Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee was a challenge to the bladders for many as it officially began at 6.30pm and eventually ended at an eye watering 10.55pm.

But Cllr Jon Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley) found he was “very much in need of a comfort break” as they approached the two and a half hour mark with nine planning applications still on the agenda

As the co-ordinator of proceedings from the chair, Cllr Abbott can’t sneak off between items.

“Before we move on to the fourth item on our agenda, and I note it is 10 to nine, I am now very much in need of a comfort break,” said Cllr Abbott as he feared impending bodily function disaster.

Cllr Abbott, who lists his employment as a house building sales manager, proposed reconvening at 8.55pm adding; “It should give you time to get the kettle on if you need a cup of tea or to use whatever facilities there are.”

But he didn’t get a seconder and disappeared sharply, as the YouTube broadcast showed a message that the meeting has been adjourned and “will resume shortly”.

Cllr Abbott apologised profusely for dashing off.

Bursting point for Cllr Abbott

“I’m not entirely sure I followed protocol there but it was getting touch and go,” he said.

Another councillor sympathetically intervened: “When you have to go, you have to go.”

Cllr Abbott explained that as he dashed off he was “already 20 minutes past my expiry date at that point.”

By 9pm the committee had only made decisions on three of 12 items but they decided to plough on to decide on another six planning applications.

Members of the public had shown up for nine of the plans to have their say one way or another.

The council’s rules allow members of the public to speak for five minutes on applications, with councillors unrestricted in their speech making.

On top of that were officer introductions to the items, councillor questions to members of the public and planners, debates and votes.

And on a few occasions the proceedings were held up by technical difficulties.

At one point the technology failed completely with all attendees thrown out of the virtual meeting.

The committee decided to plough on and make sure they made decisions on items where members of the public had turned up to speak.

At 10.55 pm they completed the task but still had three items left where no member of the public wanted to speak.

At that stage Cllr Abbott’s conceded that “my brain has completely gone.”

The committee decided to adjourn those three other items to a future gathering.

“I would like to thank everyone for attending this mammoth session, including members of the public who have watched us from the start,” he concluded with a sense of relief in his voice.