Thanet District Council meetings 'dysfunctional'

Webcast footage of Thanet District Council meeting
Image caption Thanet District Council broadcasts its meetings on the web

A council in Kent has been criticised as "dysfunctional" over the conduct of its councillors at meetings.

Politics professor George Jones said half of a recent Thanet District Council meeting was "wasted" by councillors arguing.

The council is currently under Labour control, after the Conservatives lost their majority when a councillor quit the party to become an Independent.

Councillors have reacted with mixed views to Prof Jones's analysis.

After being shown the webcast by BBC South East Today of the last full council meeting in September, Prof Jones, who lectures at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said it was "clearly dysfunctional".

'Personal grudges'

"It's a tremendously important meeting, but it bores the pants off most of the public who see no reason for tuning in," he said.

"What we've seen are these councillors contemplating their own navels.

"They've turned in on themselves and their own private and personal grudges, and not devoted themselves to matters that are really matters of public interest."

In November 2011 Councillor John Worrow left the Conservatives and became one of four Independents on the council.

This resulted in Labour taking control of the authority, after nine years of Conservative rule.

Since then Mr Worrow said the Conservative councillors have run a campaign against him, by lodging a string of official complaints and putting forward a vote of no confidence in him.

Mr Worrow, who is bisexual, was left a voicemail message by Tory councillor Ken Gregory saying, "with a bit of luck you'll get Aids".

'Not homophobic'

Gregory received a police caution for this and was suspended from the party for six months.

Leader of the Conservative group Bob Bayford denied there was any campaign against Mr Worrow.

"Quite frankly I'm getting tired of my group being called homophobic because that isn't the case," he said.

He added: "In all honesty we don't feel very good about it [Mr Worrow leaving] and we think it's through what we perceive as the disloyalty of one our members that has led to the change of power."

Labour's council leader, Clive Hart, said: "I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that my group, we come in we do the business and get on with the job in hand."

However, Independent councillor Ian Driver said behaviour within the chamber could be akin to bullying.

"It's almost like a tribalistic gang culture that has developed," he said.

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