Residents banished to the balcony under new changes at Havering Council meetings

Residents will no longer be able to sit in the Havering Council Chamber in council and cabinet meetings after recent disruptions in the Town Hall.

The changes which will see members of the public banished to the balcony instead of the side gallery were agreed at a Governance Committee meeting last Wednesday November 9 despite objections from oposition councillors.

Leader of the Havering Labour Party, Cllr Keith Darvill (Lab,Heaton) said: “I think they are using a sledge hammer to crack a very small problem.

“There have been a problem with one or two people who have been making a nuiscance of themselves, but it seems crazy to force people into the balcony just because a few people have not followed the rules.”

At the last cabinet meeting former Labour Cllr Eamonn Mahon was asked to leave the chamber by the Mayor.

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At the planning meeting in October over controversial plans for Will Perrin Court in Rainham, a member of the public had to be held back after attempting to hit a councillor.

The side gallery, which is on the same level as the floor of the council chamber, sits 19 people in comfort and has a unrestricted views.

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But under the changes residents will sit in the balcony which has restricted views, is uncomfortable and the occupants are not visible to the councillors.

Leader of the Havering Residents Association, Cllr Clarence Barrett (RA,Cranham) said: “We hear many times how this is meant to be an open council however this latest piece of totalitarian nonsense would give even George Orwell a shock.

“If the rationale is that disruptive elements are consigned to the balcony, then we need to be sure that all councillors are setting a good example on the floor of the chamber.”

The plans to introduce the changes into the planning meetings are set to be discussed at a later date.

The chairman of the Governance Comittee Cllr Frederick Thompson (Con, Romford) defended the move and said that alternative arrangements would be made for disabled residents.

He said: “We have had some people attempting to hijack the decorum of the meeting and wilfully trying to bate the Mayor.

“It is also for safety because things are getting more contentious so we are preparing for the future.”

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