Bans for activists after ‘party’ protest

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FOUR activists have been banned from council meetings following a bizarre protest in Glenrothes, reports MIKE DELANEY.

Campaign Against Charges and Cuts members Maureen Closs, Rudi Vogel, Louise McLearyand Anne Martin were permanently excluded after staging an impromptu birthday party during a full meeting of the local authority.

The group, who had been in the public benches of the council chamber at Fife House, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ms Martin, put on sparkly hats, blew party ‘tooters’ and produced a cake with battery-operated candles – which they tried to hand out to councillors – as Ms Closs shouted: “Let them eat cake.”

She also sang a version of Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’ to David Torrance, the Kirkcaldy councillor whose shock election to the town seat at the Scottish Parliament poll gave the Scottish National Party its overall majority.

He has been a controversial figure because of question marks over his support for the ruling SNP-Liberal Democrat council’s plans to effectively privatise care homes, something CACC is vehemently opposed to.

Provost Frances Melville described the group’s antics as “disgraceful” and called party leaders to the chair before announcing that the quartet would be sent letters banning them from future meetings.

The meeting was then abandoned, leaving many items on the agenda to go through undebated.

CACC has been protesting at the meetings for around three and a half years, initially against home care changes.

An unrepentant Ms Closs, a former Citizens Advice Bureau worker in Glenrothes, said the protest had been justified because council and government policies meant disabled people would soon “be left only with crumbs as their services and benefits are cut”.

She added: “The message from CACC is that we are inviting the members of the council to cut cake rather than services.

“If the council is banning us for eating cake surely that says more about them than it does about us.”

But council leader, Peter Grant, defended the ban which would protect the democratic process.

He added: “The four individuals who set-out to disrupt the council meeting have done so on numerous previous occasions.

“They have repeatedly been warned that their behaviour was unacceptable and they have refused to heed those warnings.

“They have refused to allow councillors to carry out the roles we have ben elected to fulfil.

“There is clearly no prospect that they can be relied upon to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner in future and we believe the provost had to alternative but to exclude them from future meetings.”