Watch as Handforth Parish Council Zoom meeting descends into chaos

4 February 2021, 21:51 | Updated: 5 February 2021, 09:40

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A parish council meeting has gone viral after footage of a Zoom call which descended into chaos last December emerged on social media.

Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire found itself at the forefront of an unlikely Twitter storm on Thursday after a video of its Planning and Environment Committee gained more than one million views.

The footage, originally posted on the local authority's website, shows a heated meeting between councillors and members of the public, which took place on 10 December 2020.

It has since been shared on Twitter and YouTube by numerous social media users, with one individual even creating a parody account for the meeting's clerk, Jackie Weaver.

During the committee, flaring tempers led to three of the councillors being removed from the chat room due to "disruptive and aggressive" behaviour.

Chairman of the Council, Cllr Brian Tolver, who was initially invited to take the Chair, "refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting", according to minutes posted on the council's website.

Upset at the presence of the clerk, and after being told he could be removed, Cllr Tolver is heard saying: "It's only the chairman who can remove people from the meeting.

"You have no authority here Jackie Weaver. No authority at all."

Clearly frustrated at his behaviour, Ms Weaver kicked Cllr Tolver out of the meeting, in a move that irritated another member of the committee.

"She's just kicked him out," Cllr Aled Brewerton said repeatedly, without turning his mute button on.

In an attempt to bring order to proceedings, Ms Weaver said: "This is a meeting called by two councillors."

Cllr Brewerton interrupted: "Illegally."

Ms Weaver continued: "You may now elect a chairman."

"No they can't because the vice-chair's here. I take charge," Cllr Brewerton said, before shouting at the top of his voice: "Read the standing orders. Read them and understand them!"

Cries of "dear me", "appalling behaviour" and "stop it" could then be heard off-screen.

Cllr Barry Burkhill repeatedly asked the clerk where the chairman (Cllr Tolver) was and accused Ms Weaver of not knowing what she was talking about.

Another member of the committee then asked Cllr Burkhill to be respectful towards Ms Weaver, who proceeded to kick Cllrs Brewerton and Burkhill off the call.

Responding to the footage, Johnny Mercer MP said: "If you’ve had a long day, and you need a laugh, pour yourself a glass and watch the first five minutes of this parish council meeting.

"Quite simply the best TV I’ve seen in lockdown."

Six-time Olympic champion cyclist Sir Chris Hoy wrote on Twitter: "Watching this has made my night. Who needs a Netflix subscription when you’ve got Handforth Parish Council zoom meeting!"

Television presenter Richard Osman jokingly said: "Am busily writing Jackie Weaver into the next Thursday Murder Club novel."

Minutes posted on the council's website read: "This meeting was duly called by two councillors following the refusal of the Council Chairman to call such a meeting.

"As the Chairman of the Council (Cllr Tolver) was present he was invited to take the Chair.

"Cllr Tolver refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting and proceeded to disrupt the proceedings.

"He was again asked to proceed with the meeting but continued to act in a disruptive and aggressive matter and was therefore removed from the meeting and put into the virtual waiting room.

"Cllrs Brewerton and Burkhill behaved in a similar manner and were also removed to the waiting room.

"In the waiting room they were advised that they would be welcome to re-join the meeting if they ceased their disruptive behaviour. There was no response.

"The meeting then proceeded with Cllr Susan Moore (Vice-Chair of the Committee) in the Chair."