Under-fire Mayor of Berwick vows to carry on

Mayor Brian Douglas, front row, second from right.
Mayor Brian Douglas, front row, second from right.

Berwick Town Council has delivered a vote of no confidence in Mayor Brian Douglas as its chairman.

The motion was carried by an 11-1 vote at a private meeting on Monday night.

There was no call for the resignation of Coun Douglas but the majority of members then staged a mass walk-out which is understood to have been in protest at his continuing chairmanship.

The walk-out forced the cancellation of the full council meeting which was scheduled to follow and raises questions of how the council will now function.

The meeting to discuss the vote of no confidence is understood to relate to Coun Douglas’ handling of council meetings.

Several other concerns, including an alleged confrontation between Coun Douglas and town clerk Gareth Davies at a meeting in August in which the Mayor is accused of acting in a bullying or intimidatory manner, were not discussed.

It is also now understood that the council made a code of conduct complaint against Coun Douglas to the monitoring officer of Northumberland County Council last month.

Coun Douglas said it had been a ‘hellish’ period.

“This decision doesn’t mean anything,” he said, confirming his intention to fulfil the remaining six months of his term in office.

“It’s a vote of no confidence in my business management of the council and not a complaint about my civic performance. An opinion has been expressed but there’s nothing they can do.”

This was confirmed by the clerk who said the decision only has moral force.

Coun Douglas also indicated that he intends to take a separate matter of complaint to the monitoring officer, claiming that there is a culture of bullying within the council.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to do the job I was elected to do and I have done that ever since I was elected to join the original Berwick Borough Council in 1986,” he said.

“I have always taken pride in supporting what I believe is in the interests of the town.”

Coun Robert Bruce, one of only two councillors to remain for the full council meeting, criticised the walk-out which rendered it inquorate.

“I think it is a disgrace what has happened,” he said. “I am disappointed in the other councillors who are not here to support our Mayor.”

Coun Georgina Hill, county councillor for Berwick East, expressed disappointment that agenda items such as plans for Armistice Day and the redevelopment of Highcliffe play park could not be progressed.

However, Coun Karin Graham insisted it was not a decision taken lightly.

“We have been trying to talk to Coun Douglas for weeks and weeks but we have kept hitting a brick wall,” she said. “In the end a number of us felt a motion of no confidence was the best option.

“We walked out because we can’t continue with him as chairman. Eleven of us felt we couldn’t sit there and allow him to chair another potential debacle.”

In particular she has concerns about his way of conducting meetings. She is hopeful that business can be conducted through council committees, of which Coun Douglas is not a member, but admits there could be issues at future full council meetings.

Coun Kerry Beresford added: “What I’ve witnessed and the way some people have been spoken to is shocking.”