EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Senior council officials are conducting an urgent review of security measures at Croydon Town Hall after members of the planning committee were sprayed with fluid from the public gallery at their meeting on Thursday night.
No one was hurt in the incident, but veteran Labour councillors Clive Fraser and Joy Prince were both squirted from above with what is understood to have been nothing more dangerous than water.
The meeting was adjourned for several minutes following the incident, and the public gallery cleared. The webcast of the meeting, which is usually made available on the day following, has so far been withheld by the council.
Meetings in person at the council, including limited public access, have only resumed recently following the pandemic lockdown. Because of social distancing precautions, the seating arrangements for councillors in the body of the Town Hall Chamber are different from pre-pandemic times, with desks laid out throughout the body of the hall, including closer to the public gallery.
Councillors have been advised that a review is being conducted, not by the council’s chief executive, but by Asmat Hussain, the council’s interim executive director of resources. Katherine Kerswell, the council’s £192,474 per year CEO, is away on leave.
Of all council business, the usually fortnightly meetings of its planning committee probably draw the most interest from residents, and given the often contentious decisions, also generate the most public anger. Confrontations after meetings between residents and committee members have occurred in the past, though nothing that led to any form of assault.
Thursday’s incident is being treated very seriously. “This time it was only water, thankfully,” a Katharine Street source said, “but we live in an age when all sorts of attacks take place, sometimes with horrible consequences.
“It would be easy to trivialise what happened, but the council needs to approach the matter as a very serious warning.
“The council, including its staff and elected members, have got to be able to conduct its business safe from harm. The review will have to look at access to the public gallery, and security measures over entry to the Town Hall.”
By the time of publication, no one from the council’s propaganda department had responded to Inside Croydon’s invitation to comment on the incident, nor offer confirmation of whether any report had been filed to the police.
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