It’s not often that a seven-minute edited highlights package from a parish council meeting soars up the YouTube most-viewed rankings.
Or that a clerk overseeing such proceedings becomes a Twitter trending topic and finds herself installed as a tongue-in-cheek favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the December 10th Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee meeting was, its minutes assure us, an extraordinary meeting – leaving a shocking trail of chaos, power grabs and insults.
A sleepy parish council meeting in Handforth, Cheshire turned into chaos as furious councillors traded insults and the chairman was blocked from the video call meeting. Pictured: Jackie Weaver, who threw chairman Brian Tolver out of the meeting
Weaver, Cheshire Association of Local Councils, clashes with chairman Brian Tolver who claims he was chucked out of an earlier meeting by her and refuses to accept the meeting’s legitimacy. He is later thrown out again for telling Weaver to ‘stop talking’
The meeting on December 10 is attended by several other councillors (clockwise from top left: Susan Moore, Barry Burkill who is also thrown out, John Smith who takes over as chairman, and Cynthia Samson)
The row took place during a meeting of Handforth Parish Council, the parish authority for the village of Handforth in Cheshire
The meeting, footage of which surfaced yesterday, starts badly.
As the fine burghers of the east Cheshire village (‘a fast-growing community connecting Cheshire to Greater Manchester, with a major retail centre and luxury car outlets, and easy access to Manchester Airport’) gather for the 7:30pm Zoom call, a male voice chimes in from off-camera. ‘F*** off,’ he says.
This is not the first time a row at Handforth Parish Council has been filmed…
Video footage of another row involving Handforth Parish Council more than three years ago has emerged.
The video shows a heated meeting at Handforth Youth Centre involving the the-then crop of councillors discussing money for more car-parking and affordable housing in Handforth.
Video footage of another row involving Handforth Parish Council more than three years ago has emerged
A member of the public claims Brian Tolver had praised fellow councillor Brian Burkill for securing funding for improvements to the village.
But the member of the public said the council had not received ‘a penny of the funding’ for over two years.
Councillors then have a heated back-and-forth with the public over getting more funding for the area.
The row took place in 2017, prior to the 2019 election, where a number of new councillors were elected.
We then meet parish council chairman Brian Tolver and matters don’t improve. His Zoom title, despite being the chairman, is ‘Handforth PC clerk’. There is clearly history here.
Mrs Weaver said no one could stop Cllr Tolver describing himself as the meeting’s clerk, or indeed anything else. ‘Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on,’ she adds.
He addresses the meeting’s actual clerk, Jackie Weaver, drafted in from the peacekeeping corps of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils. ‘Can we be assured that we won’t be thrown out of the meeting like we were last time?’ he says, leaning towards the camera and sucking his teeth for emphasis.
‘As long as we have reasonable behaviour from everyone,’ Mrs Weaver replies.
A reasonable request, perhaps. But Cllr Tolver is an independent councillor in more than just name.
He was thrown out last time, he reminds the room. (‘Quite rightly too,’ a colleague pipes up.) And before the meeting can even begin, he returns to taking Mrs Weaver to task. What is she doing there?
‘I am here offering support to Handforth Parish Council in the conduct of the meeting this evening,’ she assures him, but Cllr Tolver is having none of it. This Zoom call ain’t big enough for two parish council clerks.
‘It isn’t the role of someone who, however kindly, volunteers to do the clerking of a meeting to act as a Proper Officer if they haven’t so been appointed,’ Cllr Tolver insists. ‘That’s against the law.’
Ms Weaver attempts to fight her corner, but the chair remains sturdy, if inelegant. ‘Stop talking,’ he bellows.
The chair decides business at Handforth Parish Council meetings, the chair insists, and ‘God knows what you’re doing in your job’ if you don’t know that. (‘Who is this woman?’ another disembodied voice asks.)
Cllr Tolver continues with another reference to the previous darkness casting a shadow over today’s proceedings.
‘We will start the meeting, and I want to repeat what I said at the beginning of the last meeting, that this meeting has not been called according to the law. The law has been broken.’
What do parish councils do? How locally-appointed members rule on matters from village clocks to hedge trimming
In England, parish councils are the lowest tier of local government – underneath borough or district councils and country or unitary authorities.
They are responsible for civil parishes, but are sometimes known as ‘town councils’ – if the area they cover is a town.
There are 9,000 parish and town councils in England, with around 80,000 councillors.
Many parish councillors – who are not paid for their time unlike those in higher tiers of local government – are independent.
Their main responsibilities are for hyper-local services, such as hedge trimming, maintaining local benches, public clocks, parish halls and sometimes local toilets.
They can make representations on planning matters to the district or borough councils – which can carry weight – but they cannot make decisions themselves on planning matters.
One of their main roles is to represent people in their area on larger matters at higher government levels.
‘It has been properly called,’ Mrs Weaver assures him.
‘Will you PLEASE let the chairman speak,’ the chairman demands.
‘Mrs Weaver PLEASE,’ a further man squeaks from ‘Aled’s iPad’ on the Zoom sidelines. The crowd is getting agitated.
Mrs Weaver attempts to regain calm. ‘If you disrupt this meeting, I will have to remove you from it,’ she says,
‘You can’t! It is only the chairman who can remove people from a meeting,’ the chairman, who was removed from the previous meeting, cries. ‘You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver! NO AUTHORITY AT ALL!’
It was a bold shot – one likely to live on in memes, on mugs and on t-shirts – but it was his parting one.
‘She’s just kicked him out,’ says Aled’s iPad, which it seemingly takes two men to operate.
Mrs Weaver attempts to continue: ‘This is a meeting called by two councillors…’
‘Illegally,’ the squeakier of the Aleds interjects.
‘…who can now elect a new chairman,’ Mrs Weaver patiently finishes.
‘No they can’t because the vice chair is here! I take charge!’ Squeaky Aled leans forward, revealing himself as Cllr Aled Brewerton. ‘Read the standing orders,’ he roars at Ms Weaver. ‘READ THEM AND UNDERSTAND THEM!’
‘Deary me,’ someone sighs.
Cllr Barry Burkhill appears, squinting at a camera from a room basking in an unreassuring yellow glow.
‘Where’s the chairman?’ he asks, a theme he returns to over the coming minutes, regardless of who is speaking.
Mrs Weaver again attempts to get a new chairman elected – but Cllr Burkhill assures her ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’.
‘Can I ask you to be respectful to Jackie Weaver please,’ a female colleague on the call says, prompting belly laughs from the stalls. Non-squeaky Aled holds his stomach and rocks back and forth in glee. Good one! Be respectful to Jackie Weaver! Jackie Weaver has no authority here!
Cllr Brewerton notices Cllr Burkhill has now been removed too, and he’s not squeaking now – instead hissing, like the possessed young girl in The Exorcist
‘We’re trying to have a Teams meeting, you fool,’ he rasps, regrettably off camera so whether his head rotated at the same time remained unclear.
But saintly Jackie is more than a match for such foes. With a wave of her dismissing finger, both men on Aled’s iPad vanish, joining Cllrs Tolver and Burkhill in the limbo of the waiting area.
Cllr John Smith is elected chairman and the meeting can begin. ‘Welcome to Handforth,’ he says, wearily.
‘It’s nothing if not lively,’ Mrs Weaver responds.
‘Make this a mini series on Netflix,’ one internet user demanded last night as footage swirled around the web.
The hilarious clips of the meeting were viewed thousands of times on Twitter, with people creating memes of Jackie Weaver removing councillors and jokes about standing orders.
TV presenter Richard Osman tweeted: ‘Am busily writing Jackie Weaver into the next Thursday Murder Club novel.’
‘Jackie Weaver could sort Spurs out,’ opined actor Stephen Mangan
Broadcaster Ayesha Hazarika joked: ‘After days of rowing about patriotism & flags, can we agree that Jackie Weaver & that zoom makes us proud to be British.’
And TV’s Sue Perkins summed up the feeling of thousands, adding: ‘I will not sleep tonight until I have gone through every Jackie Weaver related tweet on the internet #jackieweaverhastheauthority’
Presenter Steph McGovern said: ‘But what happens next???’
It’s a tantalising question. Will there be a sequel?
Handforth Parish Council: Who are all the members involved in the car-crash Zoom conference that has been watched around the world?
Brian Victor Tolver is the chairman of Handforth Parish Council
Brian Victor Tolver is the chairman of Handforth Parish Council.
He was re-elected as a Handforth Ratepayers’ Association (Independent) candidate for the South Ward on Handforth Parish Council in 2019, gaining 271 votes.
He has been a parish councillor for over five years and is a founder member of Hands Off Handforth Green Belt (HoHGB) – a campaign group run aiming to ‘protect our village from unnecessary development on our precious open space’.
Outside of the council he runs a software business called Brooke House Ltd.
Jackie Weaver was chairing the now famous Handforth Parish Council meeting which captured national attention.
Jackie Weaver was chairing the now famous Handforth Parish Council meeting which captured national attention
She is the Chief Officer of the Cheshire Association of local councils.
The group is a member based organisation that exists to promote the rights and interests of Town and Parish Council across Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington, Trafford and Halton Boroughs.
It provides support, including legal support, to local councils in the area, as well as running training programme for clerks and councillors.
Aled Brewerton is an independent councillor who represents the Handforth West Ward
Aled Brewerton is an independent councillor who represents the Handforth West Ward. He was elected to his seat in 2019, winning with 353 votes.
He is currently the vice chairman of the council and chair of the council’s finance committee.
Outside of the council, he is a self-employed solicitor and ‘professional investigator’ who runs A2Z Investigations Ltd.
Barry Edward Burkhill is an independent councillor for the Handforth ‘Ratepayers’ Association’ on Handforth Parish Council
Barry Edward Burkhill is an independent councillor for the Handforth ‘Ratepayers’ Association’ on Handforth Parish Council.
He represents Handforth South Ward and was re-elected to the seat with 316 votes in 2019.
He is also elected to represent the Handforth Ward at East Chesire Borough Council. He was re-elected for a third time in 2019. having first been elected in 2011.
On top of this, he is the current Mayor of Cheshire East. He has represented Handforth for 38 years and for 28 years was a member of Macclesfield Borough Council, of which he was elected mayor in 2007.
Outside of the council, he is retired.
Susan Moore was elected to Handforth Parish Council in 2019
Susan Moore was elected to Handforth Parish Council in 2019. She is an independent councillor, representing Handforth West Ward, which she won with 451 votes.
Outside of the council, she is involved in Moore Secure Ltd – a company which installs CCTV, fire alarms and other home security measures.
John Michael Smith is an independent councillor for Handforth Parish Council
John Michael Smith is an independent councillor for Handforth Parish Council. He represents Handforth East Ward, a seat to which he was re-elected uncontested in 2019.
He is a self-employed driving instructor outside of the council.
His wife, Julie, is a pharmacy assistant and a councillor.
She ran as an independent candidate for the Handforth Borough ward on Cheshire East Council in 2019 – a seat which she won.
The pair are said to have five adult children and two grandsons.
Cynthia Margaret Samson is an independent councillor for Handforth Parish Council
Cynthia Margaret Samson is an independent councillor for Handforth Parish Council. She represents the Handforth East Ward, a seat to which he was re-elected uncontested in 2019.
She is a retired accountant who is married to Christopher Sampson, a driver for the Chesire-based epilepsy support charity, the David Lewis Centre.
In full: The transcript of the now famous Handforth Parish Council meeting
Councillor Brian Tolver: When do we plan to start?
Unknown: F**k off
Jackie Weaver: I think we can start any moment, Chairman. I think it is just helpful to go through the same things as we went through before which is to encourage people to just switch off their microphones because it does reduce the background [noise]. I’ll continue to admit people if you’d like to start the meeting Chairman.
Cllr Tolver: Can we be assured that we won’t be thrown out of the meeting like last time?
Ms Weaver: As long as we have reasonable behaviour from everyone, no one will be excluded from the meeting.
Cllr Tolver: I was thrown out of the meeting. So was Councillor Brewerton.
Councillor Peter Moore: Quite rightly.
Ms Weaver: As a point of order Chairman, could we start the meeting?
Councillor John Smith: Chair?
Cllr Tolver: We haven’t started the meeting yet. Do you want to speak anyway?
Cllr Smith: Yes I’d like to ask a point of order.
Cllr Tolver: We’re not in a meeting so points of order are not applicable.
Cllr Smith: Has it started yet? No?
Cllr Tolver: Points of order apply during the debates. And I want to ask Jackie was it you who quoted a point of order?
Ms Weaver: Yes it was indeed.
Cllr Tolver: Are you here as the Proper Officer?
Ms Weaver: I am here offering support to Handforth Parish Council in the conduct of this meeting this evening.
(From Aled’s iPad): You’re not the Proper Officer.
Cllr Tolver: Is that as Clerk or Proper Officer?
Ms Weaver: There’s no difference between Clerk or Proper Officer.
Cllr Tolver: Of course there is.
(From Aled’s iPad): Yes there is.
Cllr Tolver: You must know under basic law, I would have thought.
Ms Weaver: Are we going to start this meeting?
Cllr Tolver: It isn’t the role of somebody who, however kindly volunteers to do the clerking for a meeting, to act as a Proper Officer if they haven’t so been appointed. That’s against the law.
Ms Weaver: This meeting has been called by two…
Cllr Tolver: And let me also quote to you the standing orders of Handforth… will you stop talking?
Ms Weaver: Unless we are prepared…
Cllr Tolver: Will you please listen? Will you please listen? Will you stop being whatever it is you’re trying to be and just clark the meeting if that’s what you want to do. Points of order, according to our standing orders, are determined by the Chair. If you want to raise a point of order as a councillor, you ask if you can raise a point of order, you state it, and then the Chair decides. It is not for the Clark to raise a point of order. It is not for the Clark to decide a point of order. You must be aware of that. God knows what you’re doing here if you’re not.
Ms Weaver: Shall we elect an alternative Chairman? So Chairman, albeit late, shall we get this meeting started?
(Unknown): I can’t see Jackie Weaver
(Unknown): It’s this woman here.
Cllr Tolver: Right, we’ll start the meeting, and I want to remind people of what I said at the start of the last meeting. That this meeting has not been called according to the law. The law has been broken.
Ms Weaver: It has been properly called…
Cllr Tolver: Will you please let the Chairman…
(From Aled’s iPad): Mrs Weaver please!
Ms Weaver: If you disrupt this meeting, I will have to remove you from it.
(From Aled’s iPad): You can’t.
Cllr Tolver: It’s only the Chairman who can remove people from the meeting. You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver. No authority at all.
(Cllr Tolver is removed from the meeting).
(From Aled’s iPad): She’s just kicked him out.
Ms Weaver: I have indeed.
(From Aled’s iPad): No she’s kicked him out. No don’t. She’s kicked him out.
Ms Weaver: This is a meeting called by two councillors…
(From Aled’s iPad): Illegally.
Ms Weaver: May now elect a Chairman.
(From Aled’s iPad): No they can’t because the Vice Chair is here. I take charge. Read the standing orders. READ THEM AND UNDERSTAND THEM!
David Pincombe: Dear me.
Ms Weaver: Appalling behaviour. A copy of this will in fact be sent to the monitoring officer.
(From Aled’s iPad): I’m the Vice Chair.
Barry Burkhill: Where’s the Chairman?
(From Aled’s iPad): Given the standing orders, it now reverts to me.
Cllr Burkhill: Where’s the Chairman gone?
(From Aled’s iPad): Read the standing orders.
Ms Weaver: … like to elect a Chairman for this meeting?
Cllr Burkhill: You don’t have to elect a Chairman. There’s a Chairman already installed. The Chairman of the Council.
Ms Weaver: Cllr Burkhill we’ve been through this.
Cllr Burkhill: What are you talking about? You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Cllr Smith laughs.
Cllr Burkhill: The Chairman of the Council is the Chairman of the Council.
Susan Moore: Cllr Burkhill could I ask you to be respectful to Jackie Weaver please?
(Cllr Smith says intelligible words. Laughter from Aled’s iPad).
Jackie Weaver: … will now elect a Chairman.
(Aled’s iPad): Here comes a subpoena.
Ms Weaver: Chairman?
(Aled’s iPad): I want to leave. She’s kicked Barry out so I’m leaving.
We’re trying to have a Teams meeting you fool. We’re trying to have a Teams meeting you fool. We can’t, have you got that? You just don’t…
Cynthia Samson: Jackie Weaver, I find that the person on Aled Brewerton’s Zoom is being very disrespectful to everybody.
(Aled’s iPad): Oh coming from you from [intelligible] that sounds good.
Cllr Smith: My first point is to apologise to Jackie but welcome to Handforth. May I start?
Ms Weaver: Indeed, indeed. Nothing if not lively in Handforth.
Cllr Smith: What I would say is that it was a very good example of bullying within Cheshire East.
Cllr Moore: John can I make a very quick point? Rich coming from the Chairman who hasn’t held a meeting since March to try and call this one illegal and he’s a complete disgrace.
Cllr Smith: Ok, thank you Peter.