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Brent Council bar public from meeting after heckling campaigners refuse to be silenced

PUBLISHED: 12:09 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:50 21 January 2014

Protestors outside the meeting at the civic centre (Pic credit: Martin Francis)

Protestors outside the meeting at the civic centre (Pic credit: Martin Francis)

Archant

The public were barred from a council meeting last night to discuss benefit changes after campaigners refused to stop heckling during proceeding.

Protestors inside the civic centre (Pic credit: Martin Francis)Protestors inside the civic centre (Pic credit: Martin Francis)

Councillors fled for cover after heckling demonstrators took over the chambers claiming they were being denied the right to speak out against controversial changes to the benefit systems.

Cllr Bobby Thomas, Mayor of Brent, asked a campaigner to ‘shut up’ before threatening to expel several members of the public who refused to be silenced.

During the meeting, which was being streamed live on the web before the plug was pulled by red-faced webmasters, opposition councillors hurled abuse at each other with several threatening to take their grievances to the standards board.

The councillors eventually moved to another room where they continue the meeting without the public.

The eruption occurred after members of Brent Housing Action (BHA) together with Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group Unite and Community lobbied the town hall over plans which could force residents on benefits pay 20 per cent of their Council Tax.

Robin Sivapalan of (BHA) was kicked out of the meeting by security after he refused to stop heckling.

Telling the Times he does not regret his actions, he said: “It is fairly predictable how things played out.

“I don’t know why the council were determined to stop us from speaking but we showed that our concerns will be heard.”

Brent Council’s senior lawyer Fiona Alderman said: “Regrettably, last night’s council meeting was suspended in the conference room at the civic centre because of disruption by a small number of protesters. That meant the live feed of the meeting was ended because it can only be broadcast from that room.

“To ensure the democratic process of Brent Council could continue the meeting was reconvened in another room and after a short delay the meeting continued to deal with the business before it.”


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