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Folkestone People First councillor Brian Copping blasted for swearing at fellow members during Shepway District Council budget meeting

A district councillor was blasted for swearing at his fellow members during a heated debate over the council's budget.

Cllr Brian Copping, who is leader of the opposition for the People First group on Shepway District Council, told colleagues to "f*** off" as proceedings became heated while discussing a proposal by his group to reduce members' allowances.

Conservatives labelled the amendment "pathetic", "headline grabbing" hunting for "maximum publicity" before criticising the way in which it had been brought forward.

Councillor Brian Copping
Councillor Brian Copping

The Folkestone Foord ward councillor's outburst was blasted by council chairman Cllr Pam Carr and he faced calls of "chuck him out" from the Conservative leader of the council Cllr David Monk.

Conservative members deplored the attack, which Cllr Copping said was in response to personal comments he believed were directed at him which he heard being made while he was talking on the budget.

Calls of "get on with it" and "just sit down" were audible from across the chamber by Tory members.

Council leader Cllr Monk said the meeting was not the right time to be making radical changes to a budget which had already gone through months of scrutiny.

He added: "It's absolutely typical. The opposition knows that we don't change it on budget night.

"We will always say we will look at it [amendments if agreed to] in the coming year.

Council leader Cllr David Monk
Council leader Cllr David Monk

"If the allowance is not used then it will go back into the general pot and to our next priority and that's the way it's worked."

But Cllr Copping said he was being a responsible opposition councillor by bringing scrutiny to the budget while his People First colleague, Cllr Paul Marsh, said it was their job to debate it on the only occassion the full council meets on the budget.

He told the meeting: "It's clear that some councillors don't want to be here.

"If the debate and democracy is so bad then my answer to them would be to those councillors: if they don't want to be here then why don't they just f*** off."

Earlier, the meeting had heard a proposal from People First member Cllr Marsh to reduce the councillors allowances and expenses part of the budget by £119,930 and the excess to further reduce the council tax bill.

The council is introducing a 1% reduction on its portion of the council tax bill, the only authority in Kent to be reducing it from last year.

Folkestone Civic Centre where Shepway District Council meets. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone Civic Centre where Shepway District Council meets. Picture: Paul Amos

Cllr Marsh said this was to keep allowances in line with the current average of £7,525 when the council is reduced by from 46 to 30 councillors after the elections in May.

He added that by keeping the current budget figure would represent a 53% increase in the allowances budget based on the number of councillors sitting on the council after May.

Cllr Malcolm Dearden (Con) said: "It's an extremely good budget and I think it's pathetic for People First to find a small angle and pathetic to not raise this in scrutiny.

"I think it's wrong. If they felt so strongly about it, it could've gone to the scrutiny committee."

Chairman of the resources scrutiny committee, Cllr Peter Monk, said an independent panel had recommended raising the current allowances structure which the council had already rejected.

He added: "Trying to do something on the hoof is extremely dangerous. It's a nice headline grabbing motion."

He continued that due to the reduction of the number of councillors, proportionally they would do more the work of 1.5 councillors compared with their current workload as well as spending more time travelling so the 53% increase in allowance was fair.

The amendment which was also supported by the Liberal Democrat member Lynne Beaumont fell.

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