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Councillor resigns as chair of scrutiny panel during heated meeting

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams
Councillor resigns as chair of scrutiny panel during heated meeting

Cllr Gurch Singh (left)

A councillor who left the Conservative group has resigned his chairmanship of the infrastructure panel following a heated meeting last night.

Cllr Gurch Singh (St Mary’s) resigned from his post on the Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) panel following a motion of no confidence from his fellow panel members last week.

The councillor left the Conservative party on June 17 and joined as a pending member of the Royal Borough Liberal Democrats. This sparked a call for a byelection by Conservative-voting residents in his ward.

On the same day as his departure from the Conservatives, council leader Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Waltham) published a post on his official Facebook page stating that Cllr Singh had been informed earlier that day that he was to be suspended from the RBWM Conservatives.

Prior to Cllr Singh’s resignation, the meeting on Monday evening was fraught with heated debate, with councillors asserting that the meeting had been derailed by party political comments.

Vice chair Cllr Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) claimed the panel had 'shut down' his attempt to discuss the possible health of 5G and asserted that this was ‘a typical Tory attitude’.

Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) said: “The vice chair has made a number of party political statements that are not part of scrutiny, are not scrutinising policy, and have no place here.”

Several attending councillors also objected to Cllr Davey’s stance on 5G itself, including Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green, Cllr Chris Targowski (Con, Riverside) and Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con Boyn Hill), who is the lead member for health.

These councillors felt that Cllr Davey’s remarks gave the wrong impression about the strength of the evidence in support of 5G-related health effects, and were concerned that members of the public live-streaming the panel meeting on YouTube would be misled.

At several points in the meeting, attending councillors appealed to Cllr Gurch, as the chair, to call contributing members out on points of order.

Several times throughout, councillors spoke over the top of each other and did not raise their hand and wait to be asked to speak, as per Royal Borough Zoom-meeting protocol.

At the end of his final Infrastructure O&S panel as chair, Cllr Singh resigned, reading a prepared statement.

He said: “As we emerge from COVID-19 restrictions, rebuild the local economy and undertake a massive redevelopment of Maidenhead town centre, we face a considerable infrastructural challenge.

“It is therefore vital for this panel to fulfil its duties without unnecessary or politically motivated distractions.

“Last week a motion of no confidence in my chairmanship was tabled by the Conservative group and it was signed by all three of the groups representatives of this panel.

“I’m disappointed, but sadly not surprised that you have taken this road instead of discussing your concerns directly with me.

“My instinct was to ignore the motion and give it the contempt that it deserves.

“However, the reality is that you represent the majority on this panel and it makes it impossible for me to continue the role without hindering the work program and residents’ interests.

“Now that that’s in place I can step away, content that we’re in a good position to challenge the administration policy and assumptions, and scrutinise their directions.

“Therefore, in closing this meeting, I simultaneously resign as chair with immediate effect.”

Cllr Singh closed the meeting without receiving further comments from his fellow councillors regarding his resignation.

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