Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Mayor leaves resident in tears at council meeting

A MUSLIM woman told Thurrock Council leader John Kent he was “not fit for purpose” because of the lack of action over his Labour colleague, Cllr Sue Gray, who has been suspended by their party’s General Secretary over an alleged racial slur.

News broke last month that Cllr Gray, who represents South Ockendon, had forwarded on an email containing adverse comments about Muslims, following a ‘spoof’ email about how police in Bedfordshire ensured they weren’t accused of discrimination when dealing with religious suspects.

In ‘questions’ to the leader at Tuesday’s full Council meeting, local resident Mrs Deirdre Lodge asked Cllr Kent if his administration had a clear policy regarding offensive and racial comments involving councillors.

He responded that all Thurrock councillors were bound by the national code of contact, but in her response Mrs Lodge went on the offensive, citing the fact that Cllr Gray had been allowed to attend Labour group meetings and the council.

Mrs Lodge, who declared herself to be Muslim and the daughter of a war hero, also criticised councillors for not showing respect to the fallen at remembrance services. She then picked out Cllr Kent, saying he was “not fit for purpose.”

Cllr Kent said that he, and many other local councillors of all political persuasions, had attended Remembrance ceremonies across the Borough.

And he added that Cllr Gray’s suspension had been imposed by his party’s ruling body and was being dealt with by officials who were independent of any connection with Thurrock to ensure fairness to all concerned.

Cllr Gray continues to attend council, ward and group meetings.

After the meeting, Mrs Lodge gave her reaction to YourThurrock.

She said: “I’m not happy with the answer. I’m confused as to what cllr Gray is suspended from as she seems to be ‘working” as normal but what most upset me was the conduct of the Mayor (Ann Cheale) who kept interrupting me.

“I’m not up on meeting procedure but she was simply rude. No wonder people don’t vote. I was on the verge of tears and so left, feeling very let down.


  1. Yet again TBC show their true colours during the meeting, how many times have we seen the rude behaviour of cabinet members to the public during meetings.

    Can someone please tell me what the point is of having a Major, what do they actually bring to the table for the borough? this is probably one role that could be axed from the council list which will bring some financial savings.

  2. I have followed the whole Ockendon saga with interest and it is clear that over the last few months there has been a war of words, Mrs Lodge included. The ward councillors are standing firm on the Tenens illegal use of land and Mrs Lodge is the petitioner to say that Tenens should stay.

    I agree that Mrs Lodge should be treated with the upmost of respect when in the chamber and the mayor should have allowed her to finish. But she has been a frequent observerer in the chamber and asked questions for several months and so knows fully well the procedures of the council an you dont alway get the answer you want to hear. it is not the first time a question has been asked preceded by a statement, her good friend Mr Perrin is a master at this one.

    Mrs Lodge only has to look across the chamber Cllr Rockcliffe and his Chaffrica episode didnt stop him coming to council even thou he was suspended from the party and will not be standing in the May elections. Cllr Hardiman was forced from his deputy mayorship along with cllr Nicklen and cllr Halden for there Canvey saga, stealing drink while on official council duties and then slung out of the local boozer for taking the offending drink into the pub. The party line was your suspended but they did not stop attending meetings or the council. In this instance the mayor had to apologise to the leader of Canvey council for the behaviour of these councillors. have they stopped attending council meetings?No, they are all in the chamber every month.

    I know to lay people this is all a bit mad but that is politics- both local and up in the big house.

  3. The issue of the email that Cllr Gray forwarded has been dealt with extremely badly. She either read the thing and forwarded it on with a knowing ‘wink’ or she didn’t read it and forwarded it anyway. Either way, and there is no getting away from it, she sent the email. It has clearly caused distress to some (although I do sense there may be a bit of ‘personals’ going on as well) and she has rightly been suspended. Now I am sure we all know that the subject of this email is a hot potato so it should not have been beyond the wit of the Labour Party to ensure that, until the matter was investigated thoroughly, Cllr Gray stayed at home and out of the limelight. It’s not rocket science is it? I am quite sure that the Labour Party could have pulled together to make sure her Ward was covered whilst she was suspended. Instead they have done nothing and the incident has continued to escalate. Very shoddy.

  4. Lambo you are right there are some Councillors who are of the opinion that members of the public should not be allowed to question them at Council meetings and consider those who do as impertinent and a nuisance.
    Sting you say you have followed the whole Ockendon saga with interest I think you are trivialising the issue if you believe it has just been a war of words. Firstly I would like to make it clear to you that this is not an “Ockendon saga” it is a Belhus Ward issue., Mrs Lodge petitioned on behalf of the residents of the Belhus Ward and was, understandably, disappointed when the Belhus Ward Councillors failed to support her petition, signed by 347 residents,, regarding the problems caused to residents living along Stifford road and adjacent areas by heavy goods vehicles [HGVs]. Mrs Lodge has never condoned the encroachment onto green belt land and has always accepted that appropriate action be taken. What Mrs Lodge and those who signed her petition have done is to support Howard Tenens proposals to immediately solve the HGV problem in the event that planning permission is granted whereas the Councillors seem prepared to sit back and do nothing leaving the residents to continue to have their lives blighted by the problems caused by the HGVs. What has angered Mrs Lodge is that the Belhus Ward Councillors personally opposed her petition and Cllr Charles Curtis attended a planning committee hearing and personally spoke against the Howard Tenens proposals. I believe Mrs Lodge and the Belhus residents had every right to be angry and to take to task the Councillors they had elected in the expectation that they would receive their help and support and even if the Councillors felt they were unable to give the petition their unqualified support they should have refrained from so publicly airing their opposition at a planning committee hearing, it would have been much wiser to have sent a council officer to the hearing.. Regarding your comments about the treatment Mrs Lodge received at the Full Council Meeting on 1st March 2011. Because you are a regular attendee at Council meetings it does not give Councillors the right to be agressive or rude or dismissive of your question or harrass the questioner or take advantage of their nervousness. For the record Mrs Lodge has only made two appearances as a questioner which is certainly not a qualification to be regarded as an experienced public speaker. Thank you for the compliment you paid me by referring to me as a “master” of how I put my questions. You seem to think it wrong for a member of the public to make a statement of any kind whereas I believe a member of the public has the same rights as a Councillor to make a statement provided it is short, to the point and relevant to the question asked sometimes it is useful to say why one is asking the question. Finally Sting you seem well informed as to what happened at Full Council meetings is that because you attend as a member of the public or are you actually a Council member? I am intrigued to know your true identity.


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