Row erupts at SKDC: “He stuck his tongue out at me!” complains Council Leader

Labour Councillor Mark Ashberry represents the Harrowby ward in Grantham.
Labour Councillor Mark Ashberry represents the Harrowby ward in Grantham.
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Anyone walking into South Kesteven District Council’s full council meeting this afternoon could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a playground - and a pre-school playground at that.

Councillors were discussing plans to cut the number of councillors at SKDC when the row started.

The trouble began when Council Leader Linda Neal took exception to Coun Ashberry’s stance against cutting the number of councillors. Coun Neal made a “plea” to Coun Ashberry, asking him to “please be constructive with his criticism”.

Coun Neal broke off mid-point to say: “Thank you for pulling a face Councillor Ashberry. I did happen to see you stick your tongue out at me. I did see him do it.”

Coun Neal finished by further criticising Councillor Ashberry and asking him “if he just wants to carry on playing at politics and not represent his people”.

When asked if he would apologise by Chairman of SKDC Coun Kayberry-Brown, Coun Ashberry replied: “I will not apologise. I will criticise the Tory party until the cows come home.”

However, Coun Neal was not prepared the let the issue pass quite so easily. She replied: “He was not sticking his tongue out at the Tory party, he was sticking his tongue out at me.”

The farce reached new levels when Coun Ashberry proclaimed: “I was not sticking my tongue out so don’t tell lies.”

If Coun Neal was angry before, she was furious now and got to her feet, saying: “That’s a disgraceful thing to do to a fellow councillor. If he believes that someone has lied let him put it on the table now and have it out.”

Coun Ashberry was in the process of making another denial (“I never actually stuck my tongue out...”) when a member of the public weighed in from the gallery.

Mrs Patrick said: “I saw him do it and he did it on purpose!”

Attempting to draw a line under the affair, Chairman of the Council Coun Kayberry-Brown said: “Councillor Ashberry should reflect on his behaviour and if he does it again he will be removed.”

However, Coun Bob Adams was not quite prepared to let the matter lie.

Speaking directly to Councillor Ashberry, he said: “I think, Councillor Ashberry, you owe your electors an apology. Your attitude today - you should be apologising not only to a member of this council but your electors as well.”

The whole affair may well have the desired effect. After all, nobody who witnessed the scenes could disagree with plans to reduce the number of councillors at South Kesteven District Council.

Look out for more on the full council meeting in next week’s Journal, including...

* Councillors vote by 40 to 3 in favour of reducing their number by three councillors.

* New council tax proposals are passed by 39 votes to 7 despite the plans being described by one councillor as “a car crash waiting to happen”.

* More than 12,000 signatures on a petition against the planned closure of Grantham’s ambualnce station are handed over to EMAS.

* Councillors unanimously vote in favour of a proposal to fly the Union Flag outside SKDC’s St Peter’s Hill offices all-year-round.

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