Published: 12:11, 18 November 2019
| Updated: 13:37, 18 November 2019
A private security firm has been employed by the town council in Tenterden after its own members were involved in a scuffle on a stairwell.
The extraordinary move has come after tensions spilled over following a fractious planning meeting when two councillors exchanged words on the town hall's stairs.
Police were called in to investigate when one councillor alleged he was assaulted by another, amid reports that the victim was struck in the chest as "incredibly loud and aggressive screaming" was said to have been heard throughout the 18th century high street building. It is understood that the case is not being pursued by police.
A number of issues were debated in the planning meeting in August when the row erupted, including a controversial scheme to build an apartment block in the grounds of Homewood School in Tenterden which raised fears that "drug dealers, perverts and paedophiles" would be attracted to living in close proximity to children.
The ugly confrontation was said to have happened after the meeting had closed as members were leaving the building and it led to the town council employing temporary security staff. In October's internal committee meeting it was agreed that a security guard should be permanently employed when Tenterden Town Council holds its meetings.
A guard from Canterbury-based Right Guard Security has been hired at the cost of £1,440 per year, while councillors will also undertake personal safety training by attending a course run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust costing £995.
The money is coming from the public purse but the council insists that it has been strongly advised the move is necessary for the protection of councillors, staff and the public.
Cllr Harry Hickmott, speaking at the meeting, said security was also necessary as the building's doors were open when councillors met and sometimes "yobs had come in shouting".
In October a man was seen carrying a knife outside Tenterden town hall and the scare was discussed at the meeting. Michael Greenstreet of Church Road, Tenterden, admitted carrying the knife at Medway magistrates November 4. He was due to be sentenced at Folkestone but failed to attend and is wanted on warrant.
Cllr Sue Ferguson, first brought up the need for the security at the town hall two years ago, but the subject was deferred.
She defended the move and said: "Security is needed in this day and age. We always insist that groups hiring the town hall employ security and the only anomaly is the town council itself who don't have security.
"It's time we took the personal safety of councillors seriously."
She was supported by Cllr Alan Sugden, who said that as frontline workers dealing with the public, councillors might face "Mr and Mrs Angry" and he expressed surprised that training in personal safety had not been implemented before.
But a town hall insider said: "As far as I'm aware the decision to employ a security guard has not been in response to a threat from a member of the public. It was as a direct result of an altercation between councillors."
Tenterden Town Council confirmed the move in a statement that said: "Following a recent allegation of an altercation between two councillors, we took advice from the police, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) and the Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC). Their consistent advice was that action was required to honour our duty of care to councillors, town hall staff and the public."
More by this authorRachael Woods