A TOWN council committee meeting had to be adjourned early – after the town clerk walked out of proceedings.

The meeting of Bodmin Town Council’s policies and resources committee, held on March 21, saw divisions and disagreements within the council, merely weeks after winning praise for its display of unity in how it handled the Halgavor Moor planning meetings.

In scenes reminiscent of a less shouty, more polite version of the notorious Handforth Parish Council meeting which went viral in 2021, councillors found themselves quoting standing orders at Cllr Rajesh Joshi, the committee chair — in this instance over whether there could be a vote on a motion already proposed, which in the view of the chair was ‘incorrect’.

The chair was also accused by Cllr Jeremy Cooper, responsible for the majority of the standing orders being cited, as being ‘obstructive’.

The particular issue at the centre of this was whether the council could send a letter to the leaseholders of the Bodmin Pre-School, otherwise known as the Mary Kendall playgroup, giving them permission, as landowners, for the charity to apply for funding from a Tesco scheme in order to improve their outdoor play facilities.

Another moment of tension came in the form of a topic ordinarily anticipated to be benign, in the form of the town council’s risk review, a document which identifies risks to the council and their priority. Some councillors wanted to know why the document was lengthy with, in their view, most of the risks labelled as a ‘red risk’.

Cllr Liz Ahearn, addressing Peter Martin, the town clerk, said: “What confuses me is if you go back over the last five or six years, there were virtually two high risks to the council but in the last three or four months, there’s risk after risk, all of them high and that concerns me. How have we gone from next to nothing to virtually everything being a high risk?”

There was also concern from councillors over an aspect of the budget sheet for the prior eleven months, with the amount spent on ‘professional fees’ standing at £26,389.89 — an overspend of £6,389.89.

While some councillors could only look on in disbelief, others continued to come to verbal blows, with the final disagreement over how much power is devolved to the council’s officers being the point where the town clerk left the room.

A scene of hostility then became one of confusion, with councillors trying to understand whether they could legally continue the meeting in the absence of the town clerk.

Some believed they only required a note taker, others believed it couldn’t go ahead and in the absence of clarification, the meeting was adjourned with the rest of the business deferred to a later date.