Convicted Ripon City Andrew Williams has resigned as Chairman of the Finance of the General Purposes Committee (F&GP) following a public demonstration on Monday.
More than 150 members of the public gathered in the market square ahead of the F&GP meeting on June 29 to protest with a further 80 allowed into the council chambers, voicing their anger.
Incensed residents arrived with placards on the square and tensions threatened to boil over at the chaotic meeting with the Mayor of Ripon, Coun Pauline McHardy, threatening to call the police.
The council eventually voted by a vote of six to two with three abstentions ‘that no elected member may sit on the Finance and General Purposes Committee if in possession of a criminal record until such times as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in their individual case be spent’.
Despite not being officially removed from his position, Coun Williams told the Gazette that he would be delivering his resignation ‘with immediate effect’, just weeks after being voted in.
He said: “I hope this will bring an end to this very unpleasant situation. There was a highly orchestrated lynch mob on Monday and I have never witnessed anything like it in 25 years of local government.
“The fact is that I was asked to stand by a number of residents and they voted for me in full knowledge of what has gone on. They still felt I could offer something.
“I’m not going to be subject to constant abuse and harassment. It’s deeply distasteful to take the mickey out of the fact that I have a gambling addiction which is an illness.
“I find it extremely sad as there are hundreds of thousands of people who struggle with similar problems and I’m trying to demonstrate it’s possible to rebuild and move on.”
News of Coun Williams resignation will come as delight to the 637 people who signed an online petition calling for his removal as well as Coun Mick Stanley (Cons).
Coun Stanley had proposed the successful motion, describing his appointment as a ‘total disgrace’, and said the public got a ‘very poor’ view of the council on Monday.
He said: “This was the only legal way we had of keeping Coun Williams off the council. Politics is all about being to take verbal criticism and have the public vent their disapproval.
“The council is there to make their own decision and if they are pressured by public opinion so be it but the Independent’s rule has not started on a good step.”
Coun Stanley played down the atmosphere and behaviour of members of the public during the meeting, however Coun McHardy refuted this claim, describing the residents as a ‘mob’.
Some councillors complained of a bear-pit atmosphere while others walked out, culminating in Coun Sarah Jones (Ind) saying residents’ behaviour showed her why Ripon ‘did not deserve to be a better place’.
Residents argued the city had become a laughing stock since the decision and Coun McHardy said that her fellow Independent’s resignation was the ‘appropriate thing to do’.
She said: “It’s sad it has come to this as Coun Williams is an extremely good chair. In this respect I am disappointed but the behaviour at the meeting was horrific.
“I really tried to keep the meeting under control but unfortunately it was very difficult to do so. There were some people that behaved appropriately but the majority did not.
“I won’t be bullied by anybody and this is what this mob doing. I believe that their concerns needed to be addressed but the manner in which they did was absolutely appalling.
“I have tried to unite the council but it’s just not happened and I’m hoping in the future this will happen. We will carry on to do what we were elected to do.”