Chaotic scenes from a parish council meeting that descended into farce have been shared far and wide on the internet, after clips of the hilariously charged Zoom call were shared to social media.
The conference call between members of Handforth Parish Council held on 10 December 2020 starts and ends with councillors trading insults and getting booted from the call.
It's gone viral after clips of it were uploaded to Twitter; the name of one of the meeting’s participants – Jackie Weaver – became the fourth trending item on Thursday (4 February) evening.
It's the second of two Handforth Parish Council meetings that has gone viral, after clips of it were uploaded to Twitter – an earlier 7pm meeting by the Planning and Environment Committee had already seen chair Brian Tolver be removed from the proceedings.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What happened at the meeting?
The later meeting begins as it means to go on, with an unseen councillor mumbling “f*** off” under their breath.
Soon enough, Tolver is on the offensive again, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the meetings and telling meeting clerk Jackie Weaver from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC) to “stop talking… you have no authority here.”
In response, Jackie Weaver removes Tolver from the Zoom call and places him in a virtual waiting room.
Later in the meeting, there is confusion over Mr Tolver’s Zoom username, in which he had labelled himself the “clerk”.
Weaver says: “The chairman simply declared himself ‘clerk’ and notified everybody of the case. There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk. Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”
What happens then?
Following Tolver’s eviction, vice-chair Aled Brewerton, joined by an older unnamed gentleman, proceeds to yell at Ms Weaver to “read the standing orders…. read them, and understand them!”
When fellow councillor Susan Moore calls for civility, the meeting erupts into semi-hysterical laughter as Brewerton and Barry Burkill – another councillor – are removed.
Those remaining in the meeting vote to not allow the three men back in, with Cllr Cynthia Samson likening one to a “laughing hyena”.
Why is everyone so angry in the meeting?
Tolver told the PA news agency he did not regret how he had acted in the meeting.
He said Weaver was only present as a member of the public, and “had no status to speak other than when invited”.
In the first meeting, Tolver is seen claiming the agenda is “concealed” and, following a series of interjections and claims the meeting is not legitimate, he is eventually removed.
“If you look at the first meeting you will see I have reason to be angry,” he said. “Removing half the councillors from the meeting, denied half of the voters of the village from being represented – it was an appalling attack on their democratic rights.
“This made tensions rise, and that is why voices were raised in the second meeting. In the second meeting, I was trying to explain the correct procedure to this lady and say that her actions were way out of order, but she seems to have believed that she could do whatever she chose.”
Who is Jackie Weaver?
Weaver said she hosted the meeting as part of her role with ChALC, which provides “advice, guidance and support to town and parish councils across Cheshire”.
“Of that meeting, I’m not absolutely sure who was in charge,” she told Woman’s Hour. “But if you want the boring details, we have two councillors who have legitimately called a meeting… and at that point my job in supporting them to hold that meeting was to make sure they were able to hold that meeting.”
The clip’s viral status has come as a surprise to Weaver, who added “99.99% – that’s an actual fact I’m sure – of council meetings are just not like that… they are often less exciting than we might hope they were.”
Ms Weaver said she had had “nothing but really lovely, positive support” since the clip had gone viral, and said that it was important to try to eradicate “bad behaviour” from local councils.
“A lot of us are working very hard – and that includes central government – to try to do something about that, because we’re passionate about the fact that local government is the mechanism by which people can really engage with their communities.”