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Conservative Group Leader says wearing masks in council meeting is ‘unreasonable’ – in district with the country’s second-highest increase in COVID rate

Stroud District Green Party has today issued the following press release, condemning the “intolerable” attitude towards wearing masks and Covid safety of the Conservative Group leader on the district council.

The leader of the Conservative Group of Councillors on Stroud District Council has said that he believes it was “unreasonable” to ask Councillors to wear a mask while seated, during last night’s full council meeting, in contravention of the Council’s rules for the meeting.

Stroud District has recorded the second-highest increase in rates of coronavirus in the whole of the UK. This resulted in some elected councillors choosing not to attend the meeting for fear of transmission of the disease, resulting in only 27 of 51 councillors attending the meeting.

Stroud District Green Party Leaders wrote (1) to Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Stephen Davies, expressing their disappointment and accusing him of contributing to a “climate of fear” during the recent surge in infections.

Cllr Catherine Braun, Leader of the Green Group on Stroud District Council commented: “The Conservative’s position is intolerable. All councillors are expected to follow the rules (2) that have been put in place for everyone’s safety, and which were notified to members well in advance of the meeting. We have written to Councillor Davies to try and rectify this situation immediately and to ensure that we are all doing everything in our powers to reduce transmission rates and to save lives.”

Commenting, Deputy Leader of the Green Group, Cllr Steve Hynd, added, “As politicians, we have a responsibility to model the type of behaviour that we want to see. I’m deeply saddened, and angry, that the leader of the opposition would encourage members to break the rules that were agreed for this meeting to keep us all safe. My father died of coronavirus, and last week we saw close to 1000 other deaths. In Stroud, we have a spiralling rate of coronavirus that runs the risk of costing many more lives locally. We should all be doing everything in our power at the moment to save lives. Every death is a personal tragedy.”

END

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Cllr Steve Hynd on 07903 569 531 or email Stevehynd24@gmail.com

Notes to editor:

1) The full text of the letter to Cllr Davies reads as follows:

Dear Stephen,

We are writing to express our disappointment that you consider it to be “unreasonable” to ask Stroud District Council members to wear a mask while seated during full council. Especially on the back of the news that Stroud has seen the second-biggest rise across the UK over the last week, with case rates jumping from 142.3 per 100,000 people to 607.1 – a rise of 464.8.

As you know, the Council meeting was almost unable to go ahead, due to nearly half of Councillors not attending. Some members were self-isolating having tested positive for coronavirus or having been in close proximity with someone who had tested positive. Others, including some Green Party councillors, did not attend last night though because of fear of potential transmission of coronavirus in the council chamber. 

We thank the officers for doing everything in their powers to make the meeting as safe as possible, but regret that your decision to undermine the agreed rules for the meeting contributed to the risks to health, and a climate of fear that prevented councillors from attending and fulfilling their democratic duty.

We know that by wearing masks and covering our nose and mouth, we will reduce the spread of droplets and aerosols carrying the virus by limiting the amount of the virus being released when we talk and breathe, helping to protect others. NHS and other front line workers who have been wearing medical grade masks and PPE constantly in their fight against the Covid pandemic will rightly question why you feel it is so “unreasonable” to wear a cotton mask for a few hours in a Council meeting.

In light of this, we urge you to reconsider the Conservative Group’s approach to wearing masks during council meetings.

We look forward to your response as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Braun, Green Group Leader

Steve Hynd, Deputy Green Group Leader

2) It was agreed over a week before the Council meeting that masks would be worn except for when speaking.

3) Cllr Davies emailed senior officers and members of Stroud District Council at 15: 53 on the 21st of October 2021, just three hours before the full council meeting was due to take place to say: “All. Just to confirm the Conservative Group only agreed to wear masks when moving around and request they are worn when seated. There is a strong feeling this is an unreasonable request by some particularly in light of the length of the agenda. This can not be mandated. Stephen….”

Pictured are Cllr Catherine Braun and Cllr Steve Hynd, leader and deputy leader of the Green group on Stroud District Council.

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