This time the public got involved and they had some things to say (Picture: Handforth Parish Council)
Thousands tuned in to watch the return of the nation’s favourite parish council, meeting – and it was almost as chaotic as last time.
Handforth Parish Council became an internet sensation earlier this month after its last Zoom meeting descended into scenes of mutiny, swearing and full-blown strops, as adviser and breakout star Jackie Weaver attempted to restore order.
On Wednesday evening, the council met virtually again for the first time in two months and was watched live by more than 3,000 people – rising to at least 55,000 since.
This time members of the public got in on the action and some were seen on the conference call topping up their prosecco, smoking and bursting into laughter, while one played the Benny Hill theme tune.
As councillors attempted to get through the much-disputed agenda, the meeting was marred by outbursts from members of the public, referencing what have now become iconic quotes from the last meeting, including: ‘Read the standing orders, read them and understand them’.
Another changed their username to Britney Spears as a nod to Mrs Weaver’s comments in the last showdown, while one donned a large safari hat.
Mrs Weaver, much to the dismay of many, was not present because the council’s usual clerk Ashley Dawson had returned – but said earlier in the day she hoped the meeting would be ‘productive’.
But productive it was not as tensions from the previous meeting spilled over, with Councillor John Smith clashing with Chairman Brian Tolver over the chaotic events in December.
Mr Smith gave a lengthy defence of Mrs Weaver – who Mr Tolver had claimed was running the December meeting ‘illegally’ – and condemned the ‘tirade of bullying and abuse’ she received that ‘everybody in the world and their brother have seen’.
The councillor told the chair that it was not Mrs Weaver who twice kicked him out of the Zoom meeting but ‘we voted you out’.
In response, Mr Tolver said: ‘I have much to dispute in what Councillor Smith just said… I don’t really want to bore everybody but he was wrong on just about every point he raised.’
Some were seen smoking and topping up their prosecco (Picture: Handforth Parish Council)
One member of the public shouted ‘explain how he was wrong’, while another asked if Mr Tolver would like to apologise for his actions during the last Zoom call.
The chair asked for the person to be muted.
At the end of the three-hour-long meeting – which was scheduled for just 30 minutes – Councillor Smith said he hoped the next one would be ‘more slick’ and that recent events ‘will have faded into the distance’.
‘So only those who are really interested in the parish council are here, rather than those who just want to act the fool,’ he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cheshire East Council mayor Barry Burkhill, an independent councillor for Handforth, faced a vote of no-confidence over his role in the viral meeting, which has been referred to the council’s Standards Committee.
The motion, proposed by Cheshire East Conservative councillor Liz Wardlaw, claims Mr Burkhill ‘made no attempt to intervene as it became clear participants in that meeting were being bullied’.
Asked for her thoughts on the no-confidence vote, Mrs Weaver said: ‘Cheshire East policy, its whole ethos over the last five years, has been anti-bullying… and here we have councillor Burkhill sitting and watching it play out in front of him and not lifting a finger.
‘At the end of the day, what’s sadly missing from all of this is respect.’
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