The chairman of Horsham District Council Philip Circus today (Monday March 10) verbally lashed out at a reader of the County Times saying he ‘didn’t know what he was talking about’.
Mr Circus also accused the leader of the Lib Dem opposition Frances Haigh of ‘political grandstanding’ on the unprecedented change of chairman-elect at a full council meeting two weeks’ ago.
The meeting provoked outrage when Christian Mitchell the vice chairman was dumped by his party from the chairman-elect role in an unprecedented move. Mr Mitchell said he had paid the price for articulating his concerns on the housing plans for North Horsham.
In a letter to the County Times - which will be published in full in this week’s edition - Mr Circus denied there was a ‘Conservative stitch-up’ as he responded to another reader’s correspondence of March 6.
In his letter to the County Times last week reader Peter Grace said: “We live in a supposed Conservative ‘safe seat’ area, both at the local level and national level.
“It makes our Conservative district and county councillors along with our Members of Parliament, arrogant, condescending and uncaring of their electorate – until election time.
“They know that no matter what they do, what they say or how they behave they will be re-elected by Conservative voters who, unthinkingly, vote Conservative because… ‘they always vote Conservative!’. It is said that putting a blue rosette on a donkey will get it elected here.
“It is this, ‘always vote Conservative’, attitude that allows Philip Circus, chairman of the council, to shut down any open discussion and pull ‘rank’ as the chairman.
“This is to punish a Conservative councillor who has tried to be open, honest and represent the people who elected him.
“The Conservative Party no longer wants people who are open, honest and think for themselves, they want people who will toe the Party line no matter what their conscience tells them.
“This should show all Conservative voters that, ‘always voting Conservative’, is not the way to maintain democracy.”
But Mr Circus has responded: “The kindest comment I can make concerning Peter Grace’s diatribe (Letters 6th March) about my conduct of the last Horsham District Council meeting is that he simply doesn’t know what he is talking about.
“I did not ‘pull rank’ but carried out my duty as chairman to apply the rules of the council. Indeed, so members understood the position, I asked the chief executive to make a statement explaining to members why the rules of the council did not permit a discussion or debate concerning the nomination issue.
“If Mr Grace was better informed, he would also know that previously I have been criticised for allowing debates to run on, rather than for stopping members from speaking.
“I have done that deliberately at every council meeting so that instead of closing down discussion, every member who wants to speak in a debate has every opportunity to do so.
“And if he still thinks it’s still a Conservative stitch-up, perhaps he can explain why I led the move within the Conservative Group two years ago to nominate a Liberal Democrat, Cllr. Leonard Crosbie, as my immediate predecessor as chairman.
“Finally, the protestations of opposition members that they did not know what was going on was disingenuous to say the least.
“The leader of the opposition was fully briefed by the Leader of the Council on the change in the majority group nomination before the Council meeting took place. So the protestations at the meeting were nothing more than political grandstanding,” Mr Circus said.