Real life beef at Prestbury Parish Council
By Laura Enfield | 19th May 2023
Feuding councillors were brought before a standards committee this week to face allegations of poor conduct and bullying.
A real life beef broke out at a meeting of Prestbury Parish Council which resulted in one member immediately resigning her role.
Hilarie Owen said Cllr Charles Taylor and Cllr Cathy Hunt shouted and acted aggressively towards her and she felt intimidated into leaving.
Ms Owen had already clashed with both councillors about their rudeness to new members.
They would sit together "muttering" and when a seating plan was brought in to ensure members mixed, Cllr Hunt complained they were being treated like children.
She said that Cllr Hunt was unwelcoming towards younger councillor Dan Taylor, 29, who she had been placed next to and "aggressive" towards him about Green Party leaflets being out through her door.
Ms Owen intervened and told Cllr Hunt to "shut up", something she later admitted was wrong to do.
Things came to a head when she challenged Cllr Hunt and Cllr Charles Taylor at the first meeting of a new climate change working group on March 3.
Ms Owen said she questioned why Cllr Charles Taylor had been made chair as she did not feel one was needed and he did not believe in net zero.
She said Cllr Hunt shouted at her and Cllr Charles Taylor turned red with rage and "shouted violently" at her.
"I felt under unrelenting and unbearable emotional and potentially physical attack," she said in a written account of the events."
She said she left the meeting shaking, in tears and "shocked and upset" by their behaviour.
Ms Owen made a formal complaint to Cheltenham Borough Council accusing both councillors of breaching the Code of Conduct by acting in a manner which she considers to be bullying and aggressive.
A review and full investigation was carried out and both complaints brought before the Standards Sub-Committee on Tuesday (May 16).
Cllr Hunt said she ended up shouting as she felt "continually insulted" by Ms Owen referring to her as a climate change sceptic. She planned to take Ms Owen to the monitoring officer but could not proceed as she had resigned.
Cllr Hunt said parish chairman Cllr Martyn Hansen had agreed the working group should have a chair and he stuck by this to prevent the meeting "falling into chaos".
Cllr Hansen has since denied this claim.
The sub-committee found that Cllr Charlles Taylor and Cllr Hunt had both breached the code of conduct by failing to treat a previous member of the parish council with respect.
It was not satisfied a case of bullying was proven against Cllr Charles Taylor.
He is required to apologise to Ms Owen and a recommendation was made that the parish council considers arranging training to improve how its members work together.
The sub-committee made no finding in relation to the complaint regarding Cllr Hunt's conduct towards Ms Hunt as it said both parties have behaved in an unacceptable manner towards each other.
The committee did find that Cllr Hunt breached the code of conduct by failing to treat another member of the parish council with respect.
She is required to apologise to the member and a recommendation was made that the parish council should arrange training for Cllr Hunt.
Both parish councillors will continue in their roles.
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