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Foul-tempered (and occasionally sweary) parish council meeting becomes internet hit

Written by on 5 February 2021

The films on Netflix have nothing on the latest lockdown viewing sensation: Handforth Parish Council.

Parish council meetings are often dismissed as being sleepy affairs, but a recent Zoom call – where councillors traded insults and removed each other from the discussion – has become an unlikely internet hit.

The meeting was foul-mouthed at times, and was punctuated by semi-hysterical laugher as the tone steadily deteriorated.

Handforth Parish Council and one of the meeting’s participants, Jackie Weaver, were both trending on Twitter as the clip was shared thousands of times – with some describing it as “British comedy gold”.

Even before the extraordinary meeting began, the odds were stacked against it running smoothly.

The regular planning and environment committee meeting had been held earlier and chairman Brian Tolver had challenged its legitimacy before been booted off the Zoom call.

He had refused to call an extraordinary meeting – and when two councillors called one, he refused to recognise the legitimacy of that meeting too.

The extraordinary meeting began with someone trying to raise a point of order and another councillor mumbling “f*** off” under their breath.

Brian Tolver from Handforth Parish Council. Pic: YouTube Image: Brian Tolver was booted off the Zoom call after causing trouble. Pic: YouTube

Mr Tolver was being difficult again and, according to meeting minutes, he “proceeded to disrupt the proceedings”.

After asking for reassurance that “we won’t be thrown out of the meeting like we were last time”, he told meeting clerk Jackie Weaver, from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, to “stop talking” – adding that she had “no authority here”.

He said: “This meeting has not been called according to the law. It’s only the chairman who can remove people from the meeting. You have no authority here Jackie Weaver, no authority at all.”

Ms Weaver was having none of it and removed him from the Zoom call, putting him in the virtual waiting room.

But it wasn’t only Mr Tolver who was causing trouble.

Councillor Aled Brewerton, watching the events, said to his unidentified companion: “She’s kicked him out.”

He then yelled at Ms Weaver: “Read the standing orders – read them and understand them!”

After another councillor called for civility, her hopes were met with laughter.

Mr Brewerton and fellow rebel councillor Barry Burkhill were also banished to the waiting room – and were told they could return to the meeting if they could behave.

There was no response.

Councillor John Smith of Handforth Parish. Pic: YouTube Image: Councillor John Smith was at least able to see the funny side. Pic: YouTube

Mr Tolver was never readmitted to the meeting but his presence was still felt, with councillors asking why he had described himself as the “clerk” in his Zoom label.

Councillor John Smith said: “He’s not the clerk of the parish council, whether he declares himself the clerk or not.”

Ms Weaver added: “The chairman simply declared himself ‘clerk’ and notified everybody of the case.

“There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk. Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”

A member of the public interrupted the meeting to take a phone call at one point and a councillor was later heard off screen saying “We’re trying to have a Teams meeting, you fool”.

Mr Smith was unhappy with a councillor who “did not attend a meeting for six months,” but then he added: “The fact that there were no meetings held is irrelevant/”

Ms Weaver, probably wondering what she had got herself into, said: “It’s nothing if not lively in Handforth.

“I’m just glad it’s a Zoom meeting,” she said later, with her head in her hands.