Eastleigh’s chief executive has rebuked Sports Minister Mims Davies after the MP used a council meeting to ask questions regarding the recent conviction of the former Chair of Bursledon Parish Council on child sex and rape charges.
Last month Mark McCormick was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court to a total of 17 years for historic child sex offences. During his period as Chair of Bursledon Parish Council he had actively resisted the introduction of background checks for Councillors and Staff at Lowford Community Centre – where the Parish Council’s offices are based – checks that the MP says could have exposed McCormick’s evil past.
Davies had been addressing the council during public questions on the Local Plan at last month’s full council meeting but was quickly told to stop after she began to read from a prepared statement in which she challenged Council Leader Keith House and Cllr Tonia Craig – who also sit on Bursledon Parish Council – to defend their role in opposing DBS checks there.
There followed an exchange between the MP and the Chair, Mayor, Councillor Bruce Tennent who asked Davies to ‘stick to the point, this is nothing to do with the local plan.”
Despite an intervention by Cllr Judith Grajewski who unsuccessfully argued that the MP should be allowed to speak, Davies eventually gave way after telling the Mayor:
Mr Mayor, I understand you may want me to stop asking questions, but there are victims of a sex abuser in the community who want answers. it’s not a good look for this council if I’m not allowed to finish my comments.
In responding to the public participation Cllr House described the MP’s questions as a “disgraceful disrespect of the Mayor” adding: “I have never known such a rude and arrogant member of Parliament” and after the MP left the meeting, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Bicknell said that Eastleigh’s MP had shown “disgraceful and appalling behaviour” adding “I’m quite pleased that she has gone, I’m sure she wouldn’t behave like that in front of the Speaker in the House of Commons.”
Following the meeting The Chief Executive, Nick Tustian wrote to Mims Davies to explain that public participation at full council meetings was limited to items on the agenda, saying:
Although the issue you raised during your speech at the council meeting is of course very important this was not the appropriate time and place and therefore the Mayor was absolutely right in asking you to ensure that your comments should be confined to the Agenda item being debated i.e The Local Plan and not to another non-related issue.
I would remind you that the Mayor as Chair of the Council meeting has control on the conduct of the debate and he is entitled to respect from all those present whether it be members of the public or councillors.
The Chief Executive emphasised “I am anxious not to dismiss your claims” and added that Davies would be welcome to raise her concerns at cabinet or committee meetings.
(Audio taken from Council Meeting on 18 October 2018)
“I will not apologise”
Mims Davies told Eastleigh News:
I will not apologise for putting safeguarding first. It should be front and centre at every level in public live. If you choose to turn away and not challenge matters I see it similar to ignoring bullying.
A spokesperson for Eastleigh Borough Council said that the MP has not yet responded to the Chief Executive’s invitation to raise her concerns at committee meetings.