Jackie Weaver became a viral internet sensation when she removed the unruly chair of Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire from a virtual meeting back in December – along with two councillors who supported him.
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Now, in her capacity as a local government adviser, she is urging people to sign a national petition pressing the government to amend legislation to enable councillors to be disqualified or suspended for breaching relevant codes of conduct.
So far around 6,100 signatures have been collected for the petition, but it needs 10,000 to trigger a response from the Government, and 100,000 for the issue to be considered for a parliamentary debate.
Jackie, who helped launch the petition and is Chief Officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC), says it’s vital to the future of local councils if we are to continue attracting people to serve their community.
‘We are trying to promote diversity and equality’
She told Nub News exclusively: “The kind of sanctions we are looking at aren’t public flogging. It’s looking at the potential of mandatory training or being removed from office for a period of time.
“It’s important that we show the powers that be that we care about politics from the grass-roots level. It’s been like pulling teeth so far. There is a general apathy and lack of understanding of just what a difference this can make. We all need to do a little.
“We are trying very hard to promote diversity and equality in local councils and we have to be able to say to people that they will be safe in that environment.
“The least we can do is reassure them that they won’t have to deal with internal conflict. We are failing some councils who work extremely hard at representing their communities, yet councillors have to deal with a disruptive element.
“I cannot understand why people wouldn’t want to sign this petition which is designed to support local government and make sure fellow councillors and members of the public are protected from unacceptable behaviour within the operations of the council.”
A ‘significant minority’ of councillors behave unacceptably
The petition states: “Some councillors behave unacceptably, yet currently sanctions do not enable councillors to be disqualified or suspended for breaches of a Code of Conduct.
“Most councillors maintain high standards of conduct, but a significant minority engage in unacceptable behaviour, such as harassment and bullying including racist, sexist, ableist abuse.
“This activity would be grounds for dismissal in an employment setting, and equivalent sanctions should exist for councillors.”
The petition can be found here.