Council boss defends bid to gag councillor

Rita Hewitt,,chairman of the Fleetwood Cancer Support Group.
Rita Hewitt,,chairman of the Fleetwood Cancer Support Group.

The chairman of Fleetwood Town Council has defended the controversial decision to ban one of the councillors from speaking at public council meetings.

Coun Terry Rogers says he was given little choice to effectively muzzle Coun Rita Hewitt, a situation which has been ongoing since October.

Councillor Terry Rogers.

Councillor Terry Rogers.

The chairman spoke out after the Weekly News was contacted by a member of the public who said she felt uncomfortable about Coun Hewitt being publicly barred from speaking.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “I don’t feel comfortable with what it happening. I have witnessed it on more than one occasion and I don’t agree with it and feel embarrassed for Coun Hewitt.”

The situation arose last autumn after Coun Hewitt, who represents Mount ward, questioned the decision by the council to introduce a new paid community development officer.

Matters then escalated into the current situation after Coun Hewitt spoke about the new role and the existing duties of Town Clerk, Michelle Hargreaves.

Coun Rogers said: “I have to protect the integrity of the Town Council.

“Coun Hewitt breached the rules put in place for local councils by making verbal attacks on the Town Clerk, in a public forum, something the public should not have to see.

“She has also made constant attacks on the running of this organisation.

“I had no choice but to send Coun Hewitt a Standing Order stating that until she gave an undertaking that she would not do this and was prepared to take that on board, she would not be allowed to speak in our public meetings.

“I have made several requests for her to do this, but she has refused to do so.

“She has refused mediation.

“I understand it may be embarrassing for some members of the public and would prefer to see it resolved, but there is a rule in place and she has breached it.

“Until she accepts this she will not be allowed to speak in our council meetings.”

Coun Hewitt commented: “The subject is currently in a formal process.

Until this process has run its course, I am not in a position to comment.