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‘CRYING SHAME’: Tears and cries of ‘shame’ at Three Rivers District Council annual meeting

 Published on: 29th May 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

Tears were shed and cries of “shame on you!” were heard at a recent Three Rivers District Council (TRDC) meeting.

At the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, May 21, the trouble started when newly elected Leader of the council, councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, proposed TRDC’s lead members. As the majority party, the Lib Dems appoint these members, who will be responsible for various portfolios, from their own party.

Almost half the people in the room objected to the appointment of Abbots Langley councillor Sara Bedford as the lead member for housing and public health on the grounds of her alleged “bullying” behaviour.

Just before cllr Giles-Medhurst announced the proposed leaders, cllr Bedford left the room.

After cllr Giles-Medhurst’s announcement, Labour councillor Stephen Cox stood up and proposed an amendment to the motion. He proposed that all suggestions for the appointment of lead members be approved, excluding that of cllr Bedford. This was seconded by Green councillor Chris Mitchell.

Lib Dem councillor Keith Martin at this point excused himself from the room on the grounds that he has an “ongoing conduct complaint” against cllr Bedford which he said “disqualifies me from debating” the issue.

When given the opportunity to explain the amendment, cllr Cox said this was not a “party political matter but purely about… one individual’s unsuitability to be a lead member”.

He continued: “I do not believe that the public’s best interest is served by appointing cllr Bedford.”

Cllr Cox went on to reference cllr Bedford’s announcement to the council on July 14, 2020, that she would be stepping down as Leader of TRDC.

Cllr Cox said: “The public and council were misled that night. The fact is that cllr Beford had lost a vote of confidence and was therefore sacked.”

Cllr Cox went on to add that as well as cllr Martin, there were at least another two official ongoing complaints against cllr Bedford from the Lib Dems. Furthermore, he spoke of a complaint from a member of TRDC staff against cllr Bedford.

He continued: “Then there are the extraordinary and unsavoury scenes witnessed in this very room in February 2022 when cllr Bedford rose in anger and strode to the front row, stood between the then Leader and deputy, and angrily berated them both in public and – this is alleged, but denied – swore.”

Cllr Cox also referenced the allegations of bullying from councillor Roger Seabourne against cllr Bedford.

He said: “It would be unconscionable and wholly wrong for myself and this Labour group to support the appointment of cllr Bedford to a lead position.”

Cllr Mitchell then stood up to vocalise his “grave concerns” about the appointment of cllr Bedford. He said he was “shocked” by cllr Bedford’s behaviour in a February 2023 meeting.

He said: “It is so embarrassing for us as a council. I heard the allegations cllr Seabourne made against cllr Bedford. This was from a respected councillor I’ve known for 30 years and I find it disgraceful he left his many years of great public service under such circumstances. Absolute crying shame.”

He ended by announcing the Green Party’s firm support for this motion.

Next, cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst contended that some of the comments made were “conjecture, rumour and… allegations, not proven.”

He signalled his support for cllr Bedford, praising her “abilities and attributes”.

Conservative councillor Ciaran Reed then reinforced that while it is within the right of the Lib Dems to select a nomination for lead member from within their own party, it is the “democratic right” of the council to veto that choice.

At this moment, it was noted that cllr Bedford returned to the chamber.

A vote was then taken on the amendment. Eighteen voted for the amendment while 19 voted against it.

Cllr Reed condemned this outcome, saying: “There is shame on each and every lead member tonight.”

This speech was greeted with applause from various councillors.

Finally, a vote was taken on the motion. With 20 voting for and 18 voting against, the motion, which sees cllr Bedford take a senior position, was carried. At this moment, it was noted that one councillor left the room in tears.

Earlier in the meeting, councillor Matthew Bedford, cllr Sara Bedford’s husband, was voted as Deputy Leader of TRDC.

Cllr Sara Bedford told ABBOTSnews: “Complaints can be made without evidence and no such complaints have been upheld. The Lib Dem group, who know me best, elected me as a lead member with the highest number of votes, twice as many as the next candidate.

“I shall continue working hard and getting results for residents across the Abbots Langley area, as I have for the past 28 years.”

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1 Comment

  1. Belinda May 29th, 2024, 7:03 pm

    I am afraid I have experienced unacceptable behaviour from both Stephen Medhurst and Sarah Bedford.

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