VIDEO: THE ongoing issues at Penketh Parish Council boiled over again this week, when veteran Labour Cllr and former Mayor of Warrington Linda Dirir, was told to “shut up” during an outburst from independent Cllr Geoff Fellows.
During a part two item of last Wednesday’s parish council meeting discussing the non-payment of VAT on pool hires at Penketh Pool, Cllr Fellows, who was not thought to be in attendance due to pecuniary interest, came online while Cllr Dirir was speaking, saying “We’ve listened to your voice long enough” and “do you just want to shut up.”
A post was later put on the Penketh Fact Checker Facebook group announcing the outburst as “Shocking Behaviour towards women in politics” with Cllr Dirir saying she is now afraid to attend her parish surgery alone and that other female Cllrs and the clerk “feel a sense of dread” as meetings approach.
The latest incident occurred when the parish council was discussing non-payment of VAT on the hiring of the pool (a council building) for Cllr Fellow’s swimming business Puddle Penguins.
Penketh Parish Council, who run the pool as a business, say non-payment of VAT is potentially a crime and HMRC are now involved and that either Cllr Fellows will have to pay over 4k which is owed to HMRC or the Parish Council (Penketh Taxpayer) will have to pay the bill.
After the meeting, Cllr. Dirir said: “The bullying and intimidation we older Councillors have experienced from three male Independents who are half our ages has been intolerable over the last two years.
“It is not what we signed up to when we stood to become volunteer Parish Councillors.
“This has occurred on their social media pages at our own homes and covertly in the Part two meetings of the Council.
“Women have suffered in particular at their hand. Other female Councillors and myself feel a sense of dread as these meetings approach and I know our female Clerk feels exactly the same and has suffered panic attacks.
“She is our third female clerk within two years (since the Independents have been on the Council).
“Before the Pandemic when physical meetings were taking place female colleagues and I have left the meeting in tears on a number of occasions and were always visibly shaken at the end of the meetings.
“I am still feeling the effects after Wednesday’s meeting with the Geoff Fellows’ outburst.
“He was not supposed to be in the zoom meeting at that point as he had declared an interest because of his business at the pool. He just burst in, face close to the screen with a shocking tirade against me whilst I was actually speaking.
Cllr Dirir added: “Just to note, prior to the Pandemic, I had felt unsafe holding my Parish Council surgery alone in the meeting room with any of the male Independent Councillors and I have had to use the Library staff room as an alternative. Women make up half the population yet are very much underrepresented in public office.
“How on earth will this ever change if this bullying and intimidation of women is allowed to continue?
In response Cllr Fellows, who says his only regret was losing his manners and not saying “please,” said: “Anyone who understands the basic transaction of a sale, in this case venue hire, will know that if VAT is due to be charged it is clearly stated on price points, invoices and receipts from the supplier. I don’t believe that any of the six businesses operating from the centre in an identical way to me are liable to pay for mistakes in accounting that are the responsibility of the Management, the bookkeeper and the Clerk. Since this issue was first highlighted, I have told Cllr Dirir on a number of occasions and reported back to the council within four weeks to help the Council resolve this carry over issue from the Interim Audit in 2020.
“The Clerk acting as Responsible officer simply does not understand basic accountancy and as a result by continuing to push with this false allegation in a bid to publicly shame me when I have done nothing wrong. Linda Dirir is blindly overlooking the most recent thirteen serious issues of financial mismanagement which the controlling party are responsible for, values now reaching in excess of £100,000 on multiple unauthorised spends and she has homed in on this item which is actually highlighting more of the Council’s failings!
“The meeting viewed on Wednesday evening that I broadcast live in my attempt to continue to strive for openness and transparency in this Council has been exceptionally popular with residents and non-residents tuning in to observe how Independents are treated in the Council as a standard and it highlights failures of the chairman to ensure a fair process of debate takes place by constantly interrupting when Independent’s attempt to speak, after patiently waiting for the opportunity to add true value to the meeting.”
Cllr Fellows says he was forced to interrupt Cllr Diri at the point she claimed that Great Sankey Parish only posted out a 2-sided document and it costs totalled £6,000.
“Upon having a copy of the 6-sided newsletter to hand and being able to inform the council that the cost to the newsletter was £2,300 and is delivered to a lot more houses, was just the first of many untruths that were spoken that evening.
“The Part two clip omitted to show how much bullying had taken place prior to what was submitted to the fact-checker page and yes, I had had enough, my only regret was losing my manners as I should have said “please.”
I think it’s a cheap attempt from the Penketh Labour branch to discredit, but this bears no comparison to the two foul language outburst by Cllr Simm towards the end of 2020 which was unprovoked and uncalled for.
“Whilst I do indeed support International women’s day and I did state that there was too many to name in one post, I do not class Linda Dirir as someone who fits the category in my opinion – anyone who uses their gender or a national awareness celebration to detract from being called out against their lies and failings is not a hero in my book. They are the bully and should be called out for “playing the victim.”
“I have strong concerns of the councillors with the connection to the fact-checker page as there have now been clear breaches of council information on a number of occasions. This latest leak indicates that until we know who it is, every single member of the Labour party on the Parish Council and the Clerk, who has personal links with Cllr Amanda King can not be trusted.
“This also applies to Cllr David Keane who is all too familiar with cases of bullying with his role of Police and Crime Commissioner which he had obviously lost my trust from very early on, this page now actually incriminates and discredits them all by default.”
This latest incident is one of many ongoing at Penketh Parish Council, which hit the national headlines after the former Chairman’s outburst.