Council row erupts over treatment of 92-year-old Tilney All Saints woman

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A furious row broke out in the West Norfolk Council chamber over a 92-year-old woman absent from her family home for almost six years.

During Thursday’s full council meeting, former borough mayor Michael Pitcher called for an independent inquiry into the case, which he claimed was triggered by a 2007 email from deputy leader Brian Long that contained inaccurate statements.

But council leader Nick Daubney angrily branded Mr Pitcher’s behaviour as a “disgrace” and claimed he and his colleagues had been subjected to repeated “personal attacks” in recent months.

An official also warned Mr Pitcher the meeting was not the appropriate forum in which to raise concerns about the conduct of other councillors.

The exchange related to the case of Violet Ecclestone, who was removed from her family home in Tilney All Saints in 2008 because of concerns for her safety in the property, and her son Robert, who is still living there.

The family lost a High Court challenge to that decision in 2010.

Mr Pitcher said the case had developed from an email sent by Mr Long, when he was a ward councillor for the village, in May 2007.

The document was recently released under the Freedom of Information Act.

He claimed the document contained several inaccurate statements about Mr Ecclestone, whose mother travels daily from a care home in Swaffham to the property.

And, although Mr Long has offered to apologise for the content of the email, Mr Pitcher said the family did not believe that was sufficient.

He asked: “Will the leader assure me he will now instigate an immediate external independent investigation into this distressing affair to bring some resolve that will allow this lady to return to her rightful family home?”

But, amid growing anger on the ruling Conservative Party side, Mr Daubney said: “There are members of this council who should be thoroughly ashamed of their conduct.

“Whilst I’ve had major political differences, I’ve always respected councillors as genuine local people trying to do their best. There are three or four exceptions in this chamber.”

Critics have previously questioned Mr Long’s conduct after he was forced to apologise last month for email comments he had made about former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy.