Who says parish council meetings are dull? Virtual meeting goes viral after chairman is kicked off Zoom call

Jackie Weaver (PA Media)
12:36pm, Fri 05 Feb 2021
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A woman who went viral for her calm handling of a chaotic parish council meeting has expressed surprise at her newfound fame.

Jackie Weaver hosted a meeting of Handforth Parish Council in which councillors lost their cool and traded insults, leading to her kicking chairman Brian Tolver off the Zoom call.

A clip of the December 10 meeting, which was put on Twitter on Thursday afternoon, had been viewed more than three million times by Friday morning, much to the shock of Ms Weaver.

She told BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour: “I suppose the surprise comes in large part because actually 99.99% – that’s an actual fact I’m sure – of council meetings are just not like that.

“They are often less exciting than we might hope they were.”

The meeting of the parish council in Cheshire marked the second time Mr Tolver had been removed, having previously been evicted from the earlier 7pm planning and environment committee call.

In the 7.30pm extraordinary meeting, Mr Tolver told Ms Weaver, chief officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC), to “stop talking”, and added: “You have no authority here.”

In response, Ms Weaver removed Mr Tolver from the Zoom call and placed him in a virtual waiting room.

Mr Tolver told the PA news agency: “I cannot think of any other council meeting anywhere, that was taken over by an unqualified member of the public like this.

“Removing half the councillors from the meeting denied half of the voters of the village from being represented – it was an appalling attack on their democratic rights.

“This made tensions rise, and that is why voices were raised in the second meeting.”

Ms Weaver said she hosted the meeting as part of her role with ChALC, which provides “advice, guidance and support to town and parish councils across Cheshire”.

“Of that meeting, I’m not absolutely sure who was in charge,” she told Woman’s Hour.

“But if you want the boring details, we have two councillors who have legitimately called a meeting… and at that point my job in supporting them to hold that meeting was to make sure they were able to hold that meeting.”

Following Mr Tolver’s eviction, vice-chairman Aled Brewerton, joined by an older unnamed man, proceeded to yell at Ms Weaver to “read the standing orders”.

When fellow councillor Susan Moore called for civility, the meeting erupted into semi-hysterical laughter and two further councillors, Mr Brewerton and Barry Burkill, were removed.

Ms Weaver said she had had “nothing but really lovely, positive support” since the clip had gone viral.

She said that it was important to try to eradicate “bad behaviour” from local councils.

She added: “A lot of us are working very hard – and that includes central government – to try to do something about that, because we’re passionate about the fact that local government is the mechanism by which people can really engage with their communities.”

Mr Tolver said Ms Weaver was just present as a member of the public and “had no status to speak other than when invited”.

“If you look at the first meeting you will see I have reason to be angry,” he said.

Mr Tolver, who previously described the clips shared on YouTube as “corrupt copies”, said they were “hooky videos” and added: “Whether they are completely genuine or not, I don’t know.”

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