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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tory councillor calls for mayor to step down after viral meeting

A local Conservative has called for Cheshire East mayor Coun Barry Burkhill – who is also a Handforth parish councillor – to step down as chair and mayor.

Independent Coun Burkhill may have had a quiet year in his borough role – extended because of the pandemic – but he has achieved global fame in the now-famous chaotic parish council Zoom meeting that turned acting clerk Jackie Weaver into an overnight star.

The gathering of Handforth Parish Council began with someone asking if the meeting should start, only to be told to “F— off” by another councillor.

“Stop talking!” parish council chair Coun Brian Tolver told Ms Weaver, an expert from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils drafted in to help the council hold a meeting after previous issues.

Coun Tolver then made a comment that will go down as one of the year’s most famous quotes – “You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver.” – before being muted.

The council’s vice-chair, Coun Aled Brewerton then yelled: “I take charge!” and was also muted before Cheshire East mayor Coun Burkill stepped in, telling the expert that parish councils across Cheshire turn to for advice: “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” before being booted off the call himself.

The meeting has provoked some merriment – but was also indicative of a culture in which men think they can shout down and belittle women and now Conservative Coun Elizabeth Wardlaw has called for Coun Burkill to stand down.

In a letter to the Chronicle this week, she wrote: “Many of our residents will have watched, read or heard about the unedifying behaviour displayed by councillors at Handforth Parish Council, which went viral last week. Three men, one of whom was our own Cheshire East Mayor, Coun Barry Burkhill, were present at the meeting and behaving badly.

“Cheshire East Council has a council meeting on Wednesday. Given the present circumstances, one would ask that Coun Burkhill considers his position, and stands aside as both the mayor and chairman of the meeting.”

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