8 May 2022
[updated 16 June 2022]
The two Conservative councillors for Moordown attended BCP's Full Council meeting on 26 April, in a crowded Council Chamber, while knowingly and visibly ill with Covid. This led to "a row", "chaotic scenes" and the "entire meeting coming to a halt", followed by BCP Council agreeing to file a 'dangerous occurrence' health-and-safety report.
BBC Dorset reported: "The BBC understands the two councillors had informed the authority's democratic services team that they had Covid. They were then phoned during an adjournment and turned up at the meeting, at which point a row started behind closed doors." The row was understood to include a private protest on behalf of the Council staff servicing the councillors' meeting.
One of the Moordown councillors was witnessed driving themselves to the meeting at Bournemouth Town Hall, despite being visibly unwell.
The Bournemouth Daily Echo added that "chaotic scenes broke out in the chamber, which culminated in the entire meeting coming to a halt". It was adjourned until 10th May, with "a health and safety risk assessment" officially given as the reason.
ITV News report that council chiefs subsequently agreed to make a statutory report of a dangerous workplace occurrence to the Health & Safety Executive.
Private Eye magazine named the two Conservative councillors in question as the two members for Moordown.
Green Councillor Chris Rigby, Leader of the Bournemouth Independent & Green (BIG) Group, told the Bournemouth Daily Echo that while councillors joining the meeting while ill with Covid was not illegal, "it's immoral and puts everyone's health at risk".
He added: "This opens a larger debate into why councils cannot have hybrid meetings, allowing all members to engage and vote without having to attend in person."
Private Eye magazine explained that other Conservative councillors had decided to summon the unwell Moordown councillors to this meeting because the Conservatives had found themselves without their usual slender numerical advantage in the Council Chamber. On the night they had been losing control of an attempt to dilute the scrutiny powers of backbench and opposition councillors over the Conservative Cabinet.
The local Conservatives first wrested power from the previous, Green-backed BCP Unity Alliance administration of non-Conservative councillors, in October 2020. Their tactics at that time to assert numerical superiority had included trying to exploit the death of a Christchurch Independent councillor in April 2020, while emergency Covid legislation suspended the election of a successor for over a year. The Conservatives subsequently persuaded several backbench Unity Alliance councilllors (including one Lib Dem) to defect - three of whom were then given paid 'Lead Member' roles in the Conservative administration.
Here is a scan of Private Eye magazine's full report on events, and their political context.