THE chairman of Penketh Parish Council has issued an apology following a foulmouthed outburst which was later posted on social media resulting in calls for his resignation.
While issuing an apology blaming “constant personal attacks from within our own council” Cllr David Simm, an ex-military man, says he does not want to stand down from his voluntary involvement in the community.
He admitted his language was unacceptable saying he was under the impression his microphone was on mute and wanted to vent some anger at “terrible false allegations” made towards him by another councillor and references to his mother who had recently passed away, followed by laughter and a smirk.
The outburst came in part 2 of the meeting and was later shared on social media and came after the meeting had earlier been virtually addressed by Warrington Borough Council’s chief executive Prof Steven Broomhead, with Matthew Cumberbatch, the council’s director of law and governance, observing the meeting.
Mr Broomhead said a number of concerns, anxieties and frustrations relating to the parish council have been communicated to him and Mr Cumberbatch over recent months.
It came after the parish council’s clerk resigned before their replacement also left the post. But a new clerk was in place for the meeting on Wednesday.
Tensions have been running high at the council which is narrowly controlled by six Labour councillors with five independent members.
Mr Broomhead said members should all try to work together in a political environment and respect each other’s views. He put forward a proposal for members to consider.
He said the borough council had been talking to an external party who was very experienced at coming into situations of challenge and potential change.
He said person would be able to review governance arrangements, working relationships, processes, priorities and try and get more effective relationships embedded at the parish council.
Mr Broomhead said the parish council would have to pay around £10,500 for support lasting 19 days.
With tensions continuing to run high into Part 2 of the meeting, which is closed to the public, Cllr Simm eventually lost his temper while the council was discussing a tendering process saying to a fellow councillor “Take that smile off your face you f***** piece of s***.”
The comment was later posted on Facebook by Cllr Craig Lenihan
Following his outburst Cllr Simm today issued the following personal statement regarding events at Penketh Parish Council
“I deeply regret my language on the Zoom meeting on Wednesday night and within minutes I apologised profusely to my colleagues. My language was unacceptable. I was under the impression my microphone was on mute and wanted to vent some anger at the terrible false allegations made towards me by Cllr Lenihan and the reference to my mother (who has recently passed away) followed by laughter and a smirk. Sadly, in any story of victimhood eventually, the bullies succeed and the victims break. I broke and I apologise
“As an ex-military man who has served my country on various tours, I was involved in incidents that have had lasting effects. These relentless attacks I (and fellow Labour councillors) have been exposed to, by a number of Independent councillors, has brought back some difficult emotions for me and I regret that such ongoing bullying has led to me losing my cool.
“Again, I wish to apologise wholeheartedly. I aim to serve to the best of my ability but have struggled with the constant personal attacks from within our own council. The intensity of such behaviour led to my collapse and admission to hospital recently and I’m grateful to now have made a full recovery. In my voluntary roles in the Parish council and community, I did not ever imagine I would face such bullying. However, I should not have allowed myself to react to what felt like planned and co-ordinated goading throughout the meeting.
“As many of you know I’m a mild-mannered individual and have worked alongside many of the community in my voluntary role with the food hub throughout the pandemic. I endeavour to be kind and considerate to every individual I encounter.
“Whilst I have huge regret for what happened I do think that perhaps my reaction might now bring out the true story behind what has been going on in Penketh Parish Council which has involved months of bullying and intimidation. The parish council is 400 years old and has run perfectly up until the last two years when certain individuals seem determined to destroy it completely
“I wish for the council to work together as a team but the levels of bullying, online trolling, antagonising, intimidating and defamatory behaviours have been nothing less than inhumane. We are all human beings and I feel this is often forgotten amongst the constant waves of cruel personal attacks. There seems to be little compassion any more.
“I do not wish to stand down from my voluntary involvement in our community – I want to continue to serve in the best way I can move forward. Standing down means the bullies have won. We should not live in a world where bullies are successful.
“As a Penketh man, born and bred. I take pride in my role as the chair of the parish council and want to continue with this. It is not a paid role and something I do as a volunteer because I love the village I have always lived in. I hope the people of Penketh continue to support me to do this to the best of my ability.
A local spokesperson said: “it is worth noting that this incident occurred in the non-public and confidential part of the meeting and it is perhaps very telling that Cllr Lenihan has chosen to publish this widely to social media pages in the community to further the humiliation. It is clear that the extract was edited to exclude the provoking behaviours that led to this reaction including the lies, accusations and reference to Mr Simms late mother. It also omits the chair’s regular attempts to steer the meeting back to the agenda despite continuous disruption of the meeting. Such manipulative editing is very calculative and cleverly allows a situation to be taken out of the wider context. On further review of the published video, it is interesting to witness the reaction of some councillors to Cllr Simms real distress – they clearly felt this response to their goading had comedy value. It is hoped that now these matters are out in the open that and required actions can be taken to allow the parish council to move on and continue to operate to serve the residents of Penketh.”
A Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said: “Parish councils are responsible for managing their own affairs, but there is an established process in place for the council’s Standards Sub-Committee to consider any complaint which is received alleging a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. This applies both to borough and parish councillors.”