The public have been banned from Peterborough City Council meetings since last July. The decree followed a protest in the public gallery against Councillor Andy Coles after it was discovered that he had abused his former role of undercover police officer to commit human rights violations and sexually groom a vulnerable teenager.
That demonstration ended with the protesters agreeing to sit quietly, but the mayor wouldn’t continue while their banner – made by Jessica, one of the women Coles abused – was visible; the protesters wouldn’t remove the banner while Coles was present; and Coles wouldn’t leave the meeting. With this stalemate, the mayor abandoned the meetings and barred the public who pay for the building from coming in again.
In our absence there have been scenes far in excess of the Coles protest. At the last meeting, Labour Councillor Richard Ferris called for an apology from Conservative David Seaton who had flipped his middle finger at Ferris. Seaton refused to apologise until Ferris apologised for shouting.
This infantile behaviour might seem startling to the excluded public who are paying councillors to represent them responsibly, but Liberal Democrat councillor Nick Sandford told the Peterborough Telegraph that is isn’t half as bad as when he was first elected 20 years ago.
With this and the obscene disruptive behaviour far beyond anything that gets the public barred from entry, it is perhaps unsurprising that Peterborough Conservatives are happy to embrace and protect Andy Coles despite his unrepentant approach to his unforgivable past.
What is more shocking is that the Council as a body defend him – and add that it is ‘offensive’ to want to hold sexually abusive councillors to account, It is as if their own code of conduct’s stipulations that councillors must treat others with respect and not bring the council into disrepute mean nothing.
But pressure is persisting and intensifying beyond the Town Hall. Coles’ position is untenable. He must resign.