Councillor denied chance to speak storms out of meeting

Labour's Jan Cosgrove
Labour's Jan Cosgrove

A Bognor Regis councillor who stormed out of a committee meeting after being denied the opportunity to speak labelled the situation ‘disgraceful’.

Labour’s Jan Cosgrove wanted to talk about his motion for the town council to explore a three-year partnership with the Rox charity in order to bring back the popular festival event.

However when the agenda item arrived at the events, promotion and leisure committee on Monday night it was explained to Mr Cosgrove he should have spoken during public question time at the start of the meeting.

But he argued non-committee members had always previously been allowed to address items they themselves had proposed.

But officers said after training last week it was decided to formalise procedure at committee meetings.

After a back and forth between himself, the committee chairman and officers, he left the meeting.

He said: “If you are going to do that you are denying fair hearing to a councillor who has put a proposal forward.”

He added: “This is the point where this town council brings itself into public disrepute.”

Mr Cosgrove continued: “Good night councillors I wish you could do a decent job in this council I really do. Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful.”

Earlier in the meeting, Steve Goodheart, an independent town councillor and one of the founders of Rox, called for the town council’s support in helping to re-establish the festival.

He described how Rox not only gave artists a platform to perform but gave the public an opportunity to experience something they might not have done so before.

Generally committee members spoke in favour of supporting the Rox festival and making a financial commitment, but suggested the town council had to fully establish what its responsibilities would be.

Officers were asked to set up a meeting with Rox organisers to gain more details and report back to councillors.

After the meeting, Mr Cosgrove said: “I’m sorry if I alarmed people but I was given no notice of this. It’s common practice for councillors to be allowed to speak.”

A follow up email from council officers explains that while standing orders say a member who proposes a resolution may explain it to the committee they do not state the participation can take place at any time during the meeting.

Guidance from the National Association of Local Councils suggests councillors not members of committees do not have a right to participate unless the meeting includes a public participation setting.