SEVERAL councillors boycotted a meeting on Tuesday (November 16) in protest at a previous meeting that turned into "an entire shambles".

There are claims last month's full council meeting of Somerset West and Taunton Council was "hijacked" by certain councillors.

Consequently, a number of members stayed away from this week's special full council meeting at the Deane House, Taunton.

Cllr Gwil Wren, leader of the Independents, wrote to council chairman Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey voicing concerns at "the behaviour and conduct of certain councillors" at a the previous meeting on October 19.

He had hoped to bring a motion to Tuesday's meeting condemning "extremely poor and unprofessional behaviour". But he says Cllr Prior-Sankey blocked his request.

Labour and Conservative councillors also skipped the meeting of the LibDem-run authority.

In his letter to Cllr Prior-Sankey, Cllr Wren said he was disappointed that a debate on proposals for a new council for Taunton was "hijacked" at last month's meeting.

The agenda for that meeting offered councillors three options for the new council, with a working group proposing it should cover the unparished area around the centre of town.

But Cllr Wren says without warning LibDem councillors, despite protests, introduced and voted for the council to cover a far wider area, taking in a number of patches already covered by parish councils.

In his letter, Cllr Wren warned that "wilfully disregarding" the "rules of debate, conduct and behaviour" makes a council "the poorer for it".

He added: "I am therefore very upset that you have refused to take this motion despite you being on record as accepting that the meeting on 19th October was 'an entire shambles' and expressing your fear that 'a group of councillors have become unchairable'.

Writing to Cllr Prior-Sankey about his reasons for missing last night's session, Conservative Cllr Roger Habgood said: "I regret having to take this action, however it is clear that despite informal and formal protests being made there has been no attempt, or indeed it seems, intent on behalf of the leading group or individual councillors to redress the shambolic conduct and behaviour that was on public display at our last meeting.

"If councillors of any party disregard procedure, ignore considered officer and counsel advice, break protocols and harangue the chair in public, it would seem reasonable that appropriate action be taken. It is clear to me and I suggest to others that there appears to be no appetite on behalf of the leading group to redress the behaviour."

Labour's Cllr Libby Lisgo also sent a letter to Cllr Prior-Sankey, in which she said: "We share the views expressed by Gwil Wren that the removal of the item of business which was his motion to council is ill advised.

"How else are we to be seen to be tackling a situation a few weeks ago where procedure appeared to be made up on the spot and a couple of individuals were allowed to ride roughshod over the meeting. A situation that you yourself have described as a 'shambles' and where the same individuals seemed to be able to over rule you as chair?"

LibDem council leader Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts said: "As elected members we are expected to comply with the Councillor Code of Conduct as set out in the council’s constitution.

"It is their responsibility as a member and representative of the council to comply with this code. 

"The council supports these principles and has a statutory process in place to address any complaints about the conduct of members.

"Similarly, there are procedures in place when considering items for inclusion on the agenda at council meetings and these are followed in accordance with policy which is what Hazel as the chair followed. 

"It is disappointing that on an evening where councillors were appointing the new chief executive, that some members decided to not represent their communities as expected due to not having their motion on the agenda.

"It had been explained the reasons why and that due process should be followed yet they weren't undertaking their roles as council members due not liking a decision.

"Those who are unhappy with the outcome and behaviour of the full council in October, should name the councillors they are unhappy with rather than take aim at the whole council and make a complaint both to the standards committee and attend Audit and Governance in December where the meeting will be reviewed inline with the constitution."

The County Gazette has made strenuous efforts to contact Cllr Prior-Sankey without success.