Tough action has been promised against poor behaviour after an important city council meeting last week descended into an acrimonious debate.
Discussions on crucial budget proposals were overshadowed by the comments, typified by an exchange where Labour member Cllr Richard Ferris asked for a public apology from Cllr David Seaton “who has just given me the middle finger in this chamber.”
The Conservative cabinet member said he would be very happy to apologise “if Cllr Ferris wants to apologise for shouting at me to start this.”
Labour group leader Cllr Ed Murphy was also referred to as ‘the Devil’ by deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, who insisted it was a “joke.”
Cllr Murphy also accused the Tories of “screwing poor, hard-working people.”
Asked for his thoughts on the meeting, council leader Cllr John Holdich said he did not support the kind of behaviour that was displayed.
He added: “I accept that emotions ran high as we were discussing key issues, however, this is no excuse for being disrespectful to one another. I abhor bad behaviour and I will always stand up against it.
“I’m asking for the chief executive to call for all group leaders to come together to discuss a way to ensure this doesn’t happen in future meetings. Where any of my councillors behaved badly, I will personally deal with this extremely firmly.”
Labour group leader Cllr Ed Murphy said Conservative cabinet members who issued insults should have their allowances removed.
He added: “It’s a reality that women are much better behaved than male politicians and I am hopeful the number of female councillors will increase at the forthcoming elections.”
UKIP group leader Cllr John Whitby was not present at the meeting but said he was “not surprised at all by the comments.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford said “petty, personal things” are said, often from the Tory and Labour sides. But he added that behaviour now is “not half as bad” as when he first became a councillor more than 20 years ago.
Werrington First group leader Cllr Stephen Lane said: “I will ask the mayor to urge group leaders to ask their colleagues for more respect towards each other.”
Mayor Cllr John Fox who was charing the meeting was annoyed by the behaviour of several opposition councillors who stood up in protest after a vote on cutting £30,000 from the council’s communications budget had to be rerun after a “system error” with the electronic voting.
The cut was originally voted through, but that was overturned on the second vote.
The mayor said: “They stood up like a pack of hyenas ready for the kill. I found that the worst bit of the evening.” The behaviour as a whole was “unacceptable” he added.
The lengthy disputes meant councillors ran out of time to debate several key issues, such as their own allowances, which went straight to a vote.