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Shhhhh; Councillor in silent town hall protest.

Byline: By SANDY McKENZIE

A TEESSIDE councillor staged a town hall gag protest yesterday after being refused the opportunity to ask a question.

East Cleveland Independent councillor Steve Kay sat on the benches in the council chamber at the Redcar and Cleveland meeting with a gag across his mouth.

He was staging a protest at not being allowed to ask council leader George Dunning a question.

The question had been thrown out by the borough's Mayor Councillor Mike Findley who ruled it was rude and offensive.

Cllr Kay said: "I feel my freedom of speech has been taken away from me and therefore I have gagged myself in protest.

"I feel I am being treating unjustly in this. Opposition councillors should be able to ask legitimate questions and their questions should not be vetoed in this way."

He sat for the whole of the one hour and ten minutes of the meeting wearing the gag.

Cllr Kay was due to ask another question about the pounds 6m the council had invested in Icelandic banks which had gone into administration. But he simply stood, pointed to the gag, and sat down again.

The Mayor said: "My job as chair of the council is to make sure we are upholding the dignity of this council. I like political banter as much as anyone but I won't allow questions that are rude or offensive."

The question Cllr Kay sought to ask Cllr Dunning referred to the "slaughter" of Labour in the recent Kirkleatham by-election. He asked if Cllr Dunning should not take the electorate's verdict as a vote of no confidence in himself and hand over the reins of leadership to Councillor Ian Jeffrey.

Cllr Dunning said he thought the Mayor's decision was correct. "It was offensive and would have brought the council into disrepute and could have set a bad precedent."

He said, however, he would have answered the question if it had been put.

"The answer would have been that I am the leader of the council and he (Cllr Kay) is leader of none," said Cllr Dunning.

CAPTION(S):

GAGGED: Cllr Steve Kay who staged a silent protest after he was not allowed to ask a question at a Redcar & Cleveland council meeting because it was considered to be rude and offensive to the council leader Picture by PETER REIMANN
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 17, 2008
Words:390
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