Shambolic meeting is abandoned as Thurrock Council's technical inadequacies are exposed to the world. 'Grow a pair and call this off' said one councillor - who was chucked out before the curtain finally came down...

  Posted: 25.11.20 at 20:53 by The Editor

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ONE of the most embarrassing public debacles in local government was played out in a digital world this evening (Wednesday, 25 November) as Thurrock Council’s democratic process and its credibility was shredded in just over an hour’s worth of utter incompetence.

Borough mayor Cllr Terry Piccolo was forced to abandon tonight’s meeting of the full council after the most appalling display of technical management imaginable as the council’s communication system proved completely unable to cope with broadcasting a full meeting of the council.

The meeting achieved one decision, to appoint two new directors, forced through by the mayor despite comments that councillors were being denied a say in extremely important decisions.

Leader of the independent aligned opposition Cllr Gary Byrne was thrown out of the meeting by the mayor during one of two lengthy adjournments when the councillors were taken off air. He had just told the Mayor to ‘grow a pair’ and abandon the meeting as it descended into total farce.
Former pop star Cllr David van Day attempted at one point to lead a sarcastic singalong protest!

Earlier this evening Thurrock Nub News reported on the fact that the meeting was going ahead despite concerns that the council’s IT would not cope. The council insisted it could – and it failed spectacularly.

The meeting spiraled into increasing farce after rural Dean Rev Darren Barlow had offered a prayer of guidance. Councillors dropped in and out of the virtual meeting, speakers could not be heard, back ground chatter was broadcast and eventually the latent frustration was first voiced by Tory cabinet member Andrew Jefferies who said: “Is this really the way we should be dealing with business? The only thing that is going on is that public icon (the system used by council) is telling us it’s OK, but councillors cannot hear what people are speaking.”

Cllr Terry Piccolo was in the chamber for tonight's meeting

Cllr John Kent then interjected to say: “It is clear that more members are struggling to hear and follow the meeting. Is it worth adjourning to see if we can get a better level of service than we are getting tonight.”

And Cllr Byrne joined in to say: “This is very embarrassing, why don't we just quit and say it can't cope with this. The system is not man enough or not up for this, we need to abort.”

Cllr Piccolo then adjourned the meeting for the first time. After a few minutes the stream came back on line and he said: “Members are apparently having problems, There is one matter I consider is urgent business on the agenda which I would like to move to - ( - The appointment of new directors).

Cllr Byrne then spoke up again and as tempers in the virtual room were clearly rising, said: “Can’t you just grow a pair and cancel the meeting?”

Cllr Piccolo, who appeared to be coming extremely agitated and emotional himself as he struggled to manage was an increasingly out of control and embarrassing situation, then adjourned again. Off air, he threw Cllr Byrne out of the meeting.

He then restarted the meeting by inviting council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill to move the motion proposing approval of new directors, only for Cllr Gledhill to come back with: “What am I introducing?”

In the end, despite further protest that councillors’ rights were being infringed and democracy not best served, the appointments were approved and a clearly relieved Cllr Piccolo abandoned the meeting and the broadcast shut down! He may well have been regretting the words he said at the start of the meeting: "I am aware that we have been having a few technical difficulties with some of our virtual council meetings but I am assured these have been overcome."

The meeting can be viewed here.

After the meeting another Stanford councillor, Cllr Shane Ralph told Thurrock Nub News: "Absolute shambles. It seems like local councillors voices are not important in meetings. How can I represent my residents correctly if I can't see or hear the meeting. This isn't the first time its happened."

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