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Downham Market councillors speak out against 'bullying' of staff and 'campaign of relentless negativity'

A group of town councillors have come together to express their personal views on a market which has provoked fury among traders during the coronavirus pandemic period.

Among the points raised by the Downham councillors are a campaign of "relentless negativity" by a market protest group which is being led by a councillor who has been warned over his behaviour and bullying of staff members.

It also states a petition to save the market is unnecessary as the council does not intend to close the market, and that the unnamed councillor has 'dished the dirt' when circulating an email.

Social distancing measures in place at Downham's market have been contentious, including the use of barriers
Social distancing measures in place at Downham's market have been contentious, including the use of barriers

The councillors who have released this personal statement are Colin Bulley, Cissy Lightfoot, Jo Woodmin, Jacqueline Westrop, Alan Pickering, Ben Molyneux Hetherington, Willow Woodmin and Elizabeth Hendry.

The statement says: "The [protest] group are being led by a person who does not live in the town, clearly doesn’t understand the law and we believe has recently been reported for breaching SLCC (Society of Local Council Clerks) Code of Conduct.

"The Group are also being led by a Town Councillor who has recently been warned about his behaviour and bullying of members of staff. He is also a member of the car park committee, he knows that it has never been the intention of the council to use the Town Hall car park as a means to gather revenue on a Friday or Saturday.

"We have had sight of an email in which he incited others to discredit fellow named town councillors to the point of 'dishing the dirt'.

"None of the points that he has raised within the various Social Media groups have been raised at Full Council, other than the now disproven point regarding the validity of the town council meetings. As such, he is undermining the council that he claims to represent.

"Private meetings are being held with no input from the town council who own the rights to run the market."

The councillors have asked for an apology over the claims that the meetings have been unlawful, which they say have been found untrue by a borough council monitoring officer.

"This misinformation needs to stop and the townspeople need to know the truth," the statement continues.

It goes on to say that one trader has had his trading licence revoked but will be invited to apply for the new one along with everyone else, which was agreed during a meeting in August .

The statement continues: "The protest group have also bemoaned the use of Covid rangers by Downham Market Town Council. As announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, it would also seem that DMTC were once again ahead of the game.

"The campaign of relentless negativity by this group is damaging the reputation of the town, and is the key factor in ruining the livelihood of traders and local business owners. Sadly, such a campaign also deprives the residents of Downham of the very market that they love."

It comes after Downham Town Council posted a statement on social media this week bemoaning the criticism of town clerk Elaine Oliver.

The statement said: “The current war of words against our clerk is harassment, unacceptable and frankly unfair.

“In difficult circumstances she has maintained an air of professionalism, which is sadly lacking in some of the people who have taken it on themselves to make this a personal issue.

“They have posted private information on social media, been very abusive on the phone and incited others to do the same. Sadly, all of this is having a detrimental affect on the clerk, staff and councillors.”

In response to the statement by the councillors, disgruntled resident Ryan Coogan said: "It seems a lot of hearsay to me from people who are rightly to be held accountable for ‘monumental issues’.

"Whilst I do not tolerate bullying, violence or harassment of any kind it strikes me that these councillors continue to be burying their heads in the sand shouting ‘foul play’ rather than doing anything about the growing discontent in the town about many issues including but not limited to how the council are not running the market for the benefit of nobody who wants a thriving market."

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