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Two Downham Market councillors quit over social media abuse

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Two town councillors have resigned from their posts due to social media abuse.

Downham mayor Becky Hayes announced during last night’s meeting that councillors Cissy Lightfoot and Colin Bulley had been targeted in the wake of the row over the town's market.

Both councillors were part of the market strategy group and had previously signed a joint statement speaking out against a protest group, which they said was being led by a town councillor.

The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (43946642)
The market in Downham earlier today (Friday, August 28) (43946642)

Last night, the mayor said: “We have the sad loss of councillors Lightfoot and Bulley who have handed in their resignations after recent events and posts on social media.

“They feel they can no longer jeopardise their family and place themselves on the firing line. The only way was to remove themselves from public view. I am really sorry to hear about this and the police have been informed.

“I am really sorry to lose them and would like to thank them for all their hard work.”

Colin Bulley who is concerned about parking and the road near Clackclose School Donwham Market. (43946543)
Colin Bulley who is concerned about parking and the road near Clackclose School Donwham Market. (43946543)

Later on during the meeting, fellow councillor Doug Lawson was questioned by councillor Alan Pickering and Jo Woodmin over his conduct.

There was also a public question asking Mr Lawson to support his claims on social media stating he represents all the traders in the town.

Mr Lawson replied: “I was asked to represent some of the market traders and some of the businesses but not all of them.”

When Mr Pickering asked him if there was a conflict of interest and whether he was acting against the town council, Mr Lawson replied: “Not at all. I am working for the constituents. If they want me to work for them I shall. Of course there is no conflict of interest.”

Mrs Woodmin read out some of Mr Lawson’s social media comments during the meeting, including the following: “As far as the market campaign is concerned I am working on their behalf at the request of traders and there is an excellent working relationship.

“The traders are angered by the current situation. It is early days, and so far the campaign has been successful in its short-term objectives.

“Lots of intel is being gathered and being shared with Liz Truss, the borough council and the police.”

Mrs Woodmin also read out alleged comments from Mr Lawson which suggested he had used the words “moronic”, “hypocritical” and “mumbo jumbo” to describe councillors on social media groups.

The mayor pointed out there had been a “successful meeting” with traders before Christmas, and suggested Mr Lawson was contravening council policy by having these conversations on social media. She said the issue would be picked up at the next meeting.

Councillor Charlie Pyatt asked the council to stick to updates on the market rather than pursuing a “witch hunt” during the meeting.

The council then voted to continue with the Covid rangers at the market with the mayor emphasising they are primarily for the public’s safety during the pandemic.

When asked about what they actually offer to the market by Mr Lawson, Mrs Hayes added that the rangers had facilitated a pre-Christmas market after members of staff had to self-isolate.

“We would not have had a market before Christmas if the rangers were not prepared to step up,” she said. “They are a great thing for the benefit of the town going forward.”

Councillor Willow Woodmin added that it would be a PR disaster to suddenly remove the rangers at “the worst point of the pandemic” when Covid-19 rates of infection are high.

This point was reiterated by councillor Ben Molyneux-Hetherington who said it would be “absurd” to remove the rangers. He added that they had helped with social distancing and hand sanitiser where necessary.

Councillor Jenny Groom said: “The Covid rangers have been very helpful in my view and the rapport with traders is good. Now is not the time to get rid of them.”

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