'Most dysfunctional' council rocked by 'bullying' claims

London Road North in Lowestoft.

London Road North in Lowestoft. Picture: Kate Ellis/East Suffolk Council - Credit: Kate Ellis

A town council has been slammed as the "most dysfunctional" ahead of the resignation of a councillor.

Neil Coleby hit out at the "bullying and separation" of some colleagues on Lowestoft Town Council at its annual meeting earlier this week, before announcing his intention to resign from his role.

But other members of the council say his allegations "came out of the blue", describing them as "moot". 

Mr Coleby, who represents Labour on the Elmtree ward, highlighted a number of complaints raised in recent years.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: "I stepped up to the plate and offered my services when the town council was formed and I was proud to be a councillor for Lowestoft.

"In the first two years I believed we all worked together well and it felt a very positive place.

"I was extremely pleased to be co-opted back onto the council but I was immediately concerned the clerk had unilaterally changed the workings between one council and the next.

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"What followed next was a year where the mayor [Alice Taylor] and her small group tried to deliberately mislead the council, ignoring policies and practices the council had previously accepted without objection.

"It even led to the resignation of two or three councillors and past mayors of Lowestoft, but it did not stop there and the group sought to cause division and separation with bullying.

"There have been so many code of conduct complaints, Lowestoft Town Council can claim the accolade for most dysfunctional council.

"I am resigning over the behaviour of the clerk, and councillors Amanda Frost and Alice Taylor over the last two years."

Ms Frost since confirmed she has raised a number of objections to the town mayor following Mr Coleby's statement, calling it a "character assassination."

She said: "I do not believe party politics are appropriate at town and parish levels and councillor Coleby appears to have used the council as a political platform to air his Labour party views.

"Naming myself, councillor Taylor and our clerk in what can only be described as a rant in public is completely unacceptable in several ways." 

Shona Bendix, town clerk, confirmed the council was awaiting Mr Coleby's formal resignation, and said it will be seeking a new councillor to fill the vacancy once it has been received.

She said: "Councillor Alan Green has been re-elected as Mayor and has every intention of keeping the council focused on continuing the good work it is doing on behalf of the people of Lowestoft.

"Productive and cooperative work is essential as we all concentrate on the bigger picture of the challenges caused by the pandemic."

Mrs Taylor said the statement came "out of the blue."

She said: "Councillor Coleby's comments and his rambling and unsupported attacks on myself and the others he mentioned shocked me and left me totally gobsmacked.

"In this last year I don't think I've had more than a handful of very brief communications with him and I had not received any hint at all that he was brooding over anything to do with me or the council, so his outburst came totally out of the blue.

"I wasn't given the opportunity to defend myself at the time, but since he announced his resignation from the town council it's all become moot and, instead of dissecting the past, I'll move forward with my best efforts for Kirkley and wider Lowestoft.

"There's a lot of good things going on here in town that need teamwork and a steady hand, and I'll do my best with that."

The meeting, held at Whitton Residents' Hall on Wednesday, May 18, was streamed online for members of the public. 

The council was also divided when it came to electing a new mayor, with councillors Jacqueline Hardie and current mayor Alan Green both nominated, with the latter elected with 10 votes against Ms Hardie's seven.

Councillor Nasima Begum, who returned to the council following May's local elections, was appointed deputy mayor ahead of Ms Hardie and councillor Peter Lang.