Swaffham councillor to be investigated by Breckland monitoring officer after breaching coronavirus guidelines
A town councillor will be referred to a district council monitoring officer to investigate after she failed to adhere to coronavirus guidelines after a positive test result.
During this evening's Swaffham Town Council meeting, a number of residents and councillors called on Lindsay Beech to resign after she left her home when she was supposed to be self-isolating.
Mrs Beech told the council it was a "genuine mistake" but indicated she will not be resigning. She had visited resident Steph Cooper's aunt on December 30 and returned to find her son had symptoms. She then had a positive test herself on December 31.
The Independent councillor was subsequently seen walking in town with her son without a mask on. Her statement of apology claimed she had misinterpreted the rules and did not realise she could not exercise while in self-isolation.
But this was dismissed as a poor excuse by residents during tonight's meeting who felt Mrs Beech should have known the rules as an elected representative.
The police have been alerted and have told Mrs Beech they will be visiting her about the breach.
One resident, Kelly Alford said: "The ignorance and arrogance of councillor Beech is disgusting and does not represent me, my family or the town."
Another resident Caroline Ellerbeck stated: "I agree she should step down. I think it should be put to the people of Swaffham to vote on. This will not go away."
Mrs Cooper added: "I do not understand why she has to be different to everyone else in this country. This is not going to go away and she needs to do the right thing for the town or we will be laughed and frowned upon."
Jacob Morton said: "This is an embarrassment for the town and for her sitting here and hearing all these angry comments, for her to do anything other than resign shows she has contempt for the town."
In response to these comments, Mrs Beech took the opportunity to apologise again, and added that the reaction to her mistake has not been pleasant. She claimed one councillor had incited antagonism against her following her actions.
The town councillors then took it in turns to condemn Mrs Beech's actions and overwhelmingly agreed it should be sent to Breckland's monitoring officer to look into.
If the monitoring officer concludes there has been a breach of the code, they can either convene a hearing panel or resolve the matter without a panel. If the panel then find there has been a breach, they will consider what sanction will be appropriate.
Councillor Shirley Matthews said: "It was careless and it was a dangerous thing to do. It put everyone's health at risk, it was dangerous, defiant almost. We do not need national government to give us rules; if you have something contagious you stay at home. That has been the case for centuries.
"We are there to obey the rules and run the town as best we can, and when one lets us down - and I am sorry to say this because she has been a hard-working councillor over the last 18 months - but it puts us in a very bad position. We must condemn and refer her to the monitoring officer."
Councillor Graham Edwards added: "I do not know how that person can stay on the council any longer. The arrogance and defiance, she has put us all in disrepute. We do not know if elderly people could have got it and may have died as a result of it. This is a major, major failure of the adherence of the rules.
"Walking around town with an infected son without a mask on. I can't conceive of anything more stupid."
Councillor Wendy Bensley said: "Everyone should follow government rules, councillor or resident. It's the same as if you drive a car whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, all these rules are in place and you stick to the rules."
The mayor condemned Mrs Beech and said she would like it to be referred to the monitoring officer, as well as hearing the result of the police investigation. And Colin Houghton added that the Independent councillor had caused a lot of distress to residents.
Mrs Beech replied: "I will accept what everybody said, it was a genuine mistake and I am quite happy to be referred to the monitoring officer."
There were eight votes in favour of the case being sent to the monitoring officer with two abstentions.