Bouncers hired for town council meeting that was cancelled at the last minute

The drama surrounding Leigh-on Sea’s town council moved up another level this week after bouncers were hired to police a council meeting that was cancelled at the last minute, leaving more than 100 residents with a wasted journey.

The latest debacle for the troubled council came as chairman Bernard Arscott opened and adjourned a meeting on Tuesday to boos, slow hand claps and calls of “out, out” from residents in the public gallery.

Mr Arscott claimed the meeting was cancelled because the clerk was unwell. However, the opposition hass claimed it was “predetermined” and multiple meetings have taken place in recent months without the clerk present.

Leigh Town councillor, Carole Mulroney, said: “There were about 120 people that turned up in the pouring rain and cold.

“Bernard Arscott said he was adjourning the meeting and they all scuttled out of the back door.

“Over the last few months we’ve lots of committee meetings where there has been no clerk and I raised it every time and they ignored it. Now when it suits, because they weren’t happy having 120 people, they were worried.”

The meeting wound up with shouts of “disgraceful” and “absolutely pathetic” from angry residents.

It is the latest in a long line of controversies at the council with police having been called on two occasions to deal with unhappy residents.

Former town councillor and city councillor, Keith Evans, said: “Clearly it was all predetermined because they sat down without taking their coats off. They didn’t have any papers out.

“At every other meeting that a clerk hasn’t been available they’ve just suspended standing orders. It seems like it is just when it suits.

Speaking this week, Mr Arscott said: “It was called off because the clerk had been unwell. She thought she’d be well enough for the meeting and then had a turn for the worst late in the afternoon. We tried to find an alternative but unfortunately those we could call upon were all unavailable. You have to have a clerk to help give you advice where necessary.”

Apologising to residents, Mr Arscott added: “We had security present. We’re sorry there has been some bad behaviour from individuals that has led to this happening.

“Unfortunately a vocal minority of residents wish to try and disrupt and cause problems at meetings.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter