A city councillor has accused a leading member of the cabinet of assaulting him at a meeting with rolled-up pieces of paper.
Labour’s Ed Murphy has reported the incident to police alleging that Conservative cabinet member David Seaton hit him on the back of the head.
Police have confirmed they are investigating Cllr Murphy’s accusation and Cllr Seaton has strenuously denied the claims.
Cllr Seaton has also revealed his intention not to stand for re-election next May and said the bad behaviour of other councillors was “really getting to me”.
The alleged assault took place when both men - who are members of the council’s ethics committee - were in the public gallery at the council’s Adults and Communities Scrutiny meeting on Monday listening to the debate on the controversial council plan to buy homes at St Michael’s Gate for temporary housing.
Cllr Murphy said: “I was sitting in the public gallery listening to the meeting and Cllr Seaton came in and sat behind me.
“As the meeting progressed he kept barracking me from behind as I spoke, so I decided to move further away from him.
“When the agenda Item on the acquisition of housing for temporary accommodation came up Cllr Peter Hiller was addressing the meeting.
“I pointed out that these houses were being sold at between £75,000 and £110,000 but the council was purchasing them at £180,000 so to me something seemed wrong and was perhaps a bit ‘dodgy’.
“With that I suddenly felt somebody hit me sharply on the back of my head from behind. I turned around and there was Cllr Seaton holding what appeared to be a rolled-up set of documents with which he had slapped me on the back of the head.
“Before I could do or say anything Cllr Seaton quickly got up and left the chamber. I was genuinely shocked and I have a bruise on the back of my head.
“I decided this morning (Tuesday) to report the matter to the police as an assault.
“What’s even worse is that Cllr Seaton is the head of the standards committee for the council and head of finance. I don’t know what overcame him.”
Cllr David Seaton vehemently denied the accusation and told the PT: “I was sitting behind Cllr Murphy in the public gallery section when he repeatedly turned to me saying that it was my fault the prices being paid for houses by the council were far too high.
“I told him several times ‘shut up Ed, I can’t hear’ but he continued to barrack me again and again on the cost of houses for temporary accommodation saying that we (Peterborough City Council) were over-paying for them and that he felt there were all kinds of ‘dodgy dealing’ going on at the council.
“Well, I’d had enough of it, I said to Cllr Murphy ‘you can’t keep blaming me like this, Ed. I’m sorry if that’s how you feel but I’ve had enough of your nonsense’, so I decided to leave.
“I most certainly didn’t hit him with anything over the back of his head and anybody who was there could see that I only had a very thin collection of papers with me at the time and that I left those on the desk when I walked out of the chamber.
“Besides, I’m head of the council for the standards committee so I would hardly ‘slap’ another councillor across the back of the head with my papers now would I?”
Clrr Seaton has also told the Peterborough Telegraph that he will not be standing at the next council elections in May.
He said: “Frankly the lack of respect and etiquette in the chamber at Peterborough City Council is really getting to me now, so much so that I have decided I will not be standing for election when the opportunity arises again next May – I’ve simply had enough.
“My friends and colleagues have tried to talk me out of it but I joined this council to do something good for the people of the city of Peterborough, not to listen to constant barracking, rude insults being hurled backwards and forwards by councillors and grown men and women acting in silly ways.”
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “We were contacted this morning (Tuesday) with reports of an assault in Bridge Street, Peterborough, yesterday evening.
“At about 8.15pm a man in his 50s was assaulted. He was not injured as a result of what happened.”
A council spokesperson, said: “We understand that an allegation has been made to the police about an incident at Monday night’s council meeting.
“As a police investigation is currently underway it would be wrong for us to comment at this time.”