Police called to council meeting as protesters stage chamber sit-in

The council chamber at Great Yarmouth Borough Council Picture: James Bass

The council chamber at Great Yarmouth Borough Council Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Police were called to a council meeting in Great Yarmouth after evicted protesters refused to leave the public gallery.

After issuing several warnings to members of the public attending the meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s full council, mayor Mary Coleman ordered the public gallery be cleared.

However, when a select few of the protesters - who had attended to support a Labour motion around children’s centres - refused to leave the council chamber, the meeting was adjourned and police called.

The mayor’s order came after a proportion of the people in the public gallery heckled councillors at the meeting with chants of “shame on you” after Conservatives voted down Labour councillor Mike Smith-Clare’s children’s centres motion.

The motion called for the borough council to write to Norfolk County Council, expressing their desire for the six centres in the borough be kept open.

The motion was voted down by 15 votes to 19, prompting dismayed reactions from the protesters.

After the meeting Mr Smith-Clare said: “I do not want what happened to detract from the message we were trying to get across - and that is our children’s centres should not close.

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“I feel this is a message that was made loud and clear.”

Graham Plant, borough county leader, however, condemned the actions of some of those in the public gallery.

He said: “If that is the way these people want to act then so be it, but to be shouted down every time you attempt to say something is not acceptable.”

Ahead of the motion, Mr Smith-Clare called for the vote on it to be recorded - something that requires 16 members to support before it can take place.

All 15 Labour councillors supported him and Mr Plant initially appeared to be the 16th, however swiftly changed his mind.

He said: “I would have had no problem with a recorded vote, but I took a look around the room and saw how my members felt so supported their wishes.”

When the meeting restarted after the adjournment, a second Labour motion - around distributing sanitary products in council buildings - was postponed to a future meeting.