WHAT should have been the last full meeting in the present term of Ledbury Town Council had to be abandoned after police were called to remove a former town councillor from the chamber.

Newly resigned councillor,Richard Hadley used the public participation section of the meeting in the Market House last night to accuse the mayor, Cllr Bob Barnes, and a "junior clerical officer" of "widely circulating a malicious and defamatory allegation" about him.

He also had criticism of fellow councillors.

Mr Hadley said: "There are too many instances of arrogant and perverse behaviour by long-standing councillors to list here.

"All I can say is this stale culture stifles progress and snuffs out precious energy and enthusiasm."

Concerning the alleged "malicious and defamatory allegation", Mr Hadley said the mayor had called his behaviour a "stain on his tenure as mayor," and had also claimed that Mr Hadley's behaviour "brought the council into disrepute".

Mr Hadley, who said was not speaking from a council seat, but from "the cheap seats as a member of the public", said to Cllr Barnes: "You have tried to silence me on a number of occasions. I will not be silenced again."

Cllr Barnes said Mr Hadley's allegations were "unproven" and  were "not the case at all".

Cllr Barnes stood up, to indicate under standing orders that Mr Hadley should sit down.

Mr Hadley refused and was approached by former mayors, Cllr Clive Jupp and Cllr Allen Conway.

Mr Hadley asked them: "Are you going to manhandle me?"

He said the situation was turning into a "fracas".

Mr Hadley raised concerns about what he called "an unauthorised payment" of £7,000 to Neighbourhood Plan consultants Foxley Tagg.

He said: "This was an unauthorised payment, outside of financial regulations, and paid retrospectively.

"I have asked repeatedly for clarification firstly from the mayor and chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan group, and have received none.

"We are still waiting for an answer about the £7000."

Mr Hadley added: "These shortcomings are as serious as it gets for a town council."

While he talked, many people in the chamber, members of the public and councillors, talked over him, with someone shouting: "No one is listening to a single word you say".

Cllr Barnes asked: "Will you leave, Mr Hadley?"

Mr Hadley said: "The police may escort me, but I shall not leave."

The police were called.

Cllr Barnes said: "In my opinion there has been a breach of standing orders - disorderly conduct. I propose that the person be excluded from the room."

This was approved on a vote, but there were three abstentions, including Cllr Liz Harvey, Cllr Terry Widdows and Cllr Annette Crowe.

Cllr Barnes, after the vote said: "Until the person is removed, I suspend the meeting."

The police had been called, but 45 minutes later they were still to arrive.

In that time, both councillors and members of the public talked among themselves, with someone shouting out that music should be played "so we can have a dance".

Finally, Cllr Barnes said the meeting would have to be reconvened at a later date.

So ended, after less than one hour, what should have been the final full town council meeting before the election.

Immediately after the close of the meeting, the Reporter asked Cllr Barnes if he had a date for the reconvened meeting, but this is still to be decided.

Cllr Barnes added that he "totally refuted" the allegations against him that had been made in public that evening.

A West Mercia Police spokesman said: “Police were called at 7.45pm to the Market House in Ledbury to reports of a member of the public being in a council meeting and refusing to leave.

"The meeting was adjourned and we were told that our attendance was no longer needed. There was no violence and no one was injured.”

The meeting will be reconvened this Thursday, April 23, at 7.30pm, in the Market House.