Convicted Ripon City Councillor Andrew Williams could be forced to stand down as chairman of the Finance and General Purpose committee, after a ‘chaotic’ meeting saw councillors approve a motion banning him from the position.
Coun Williams was elected to the role on June 2, but residents and councillors raised concerns over his conviction for fraud last August.
The Independent councillor had stood firm in the face of heavy criticism and said his 16 years as a councillor for North Yorkshire Harrogate and Ripon gave him a distinct advantage and that he would not be dealing with day to day finances.
However Conservative Coun Mick Stanley remained unhappy with the appointment and proposed a motion ‘that no elected member may sit on the Finance and General Purposes Committee if in possession of a criminal record until such times as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in their individual case be spent’ which was passed by a vote of six to two with three abstentions last night (June 29) in Ripon Town Hall.
The meeting was described as ‘chaotic’ after between 80 and 100 people protested in the market place ahead of the meeting, with some councillors refusing to vote or leaving early.
Ripon Mayor, Coun Pauline McHardy said: “Every time I tried to speak in the meeting I was shouted down, it was disgraceful. This is mob rule.
“I was about to call the police on two occasions but I was persuaded not to. It is not acceptable behaviour in the council chamber. We don’t have mobs in Ripon.”
Former city councillor, John Richmond agreed and described objectors as ‘hooligans’.
“I served as a councillor for 15 years and never saw anything like this,” he said.
However, campaigner Darren Clare said the turn out illustrates the strength of feeling in Ripon.
He said: “I didn’t expect 10 people to turn out, never mind 100, the overwhelming feeling was that the council didn’t understand the depth of feeling in Ripon about this.
“I have never been into politics before this, I never got involved however I felt having a convicted fraudster on a finance committee was wrong.”
Coun Stanley admitted that the meeting was ‘heated’ but said it was success overall.
He said: “Politicians need to be able to stand the heat in the kitchen and clearly some found it rather difficult. The public made their voices very clear.”
The Ripon Gazette has contacted Mr Williams and is awaiting a response.