THE MAYOR of Swindon has publicly apologised to an elderly woman who said she was ‘humiliated’ after being repeatedly interrupted at a council meeting last week.
Mary Ratcliffe, 85, of Croft Road, had gone to the meeting to speak out on how important libraries were and urge the council not to touch them in its cutbacks.
But when she stood up to speak the mayor, Coun Rex Barnett, interrupted her saying she was only allowed to ask questions not make statements. Mrs Ratcliffe, who worked on codebreaking machines at an outstation of Bletchley Park during the Second World War, has since written to the leader of the council to complain.
She described the meeting as ‘absolutely horrendous’ and ‘painful to witness’.
The Adver reported on Friday how members of the public were kept waiting for more than two hours at Thursday night’s meeting before they were given a chance to speak.
The leader of the council, Coun Rod Bluh, stood up towards the end of the meeting to apologise for the way it had gone.
But Mrs Ratcliffe, a member of the National Campaign for Courtesy, added that she was also appalled at the manner in which the councillors treated each other.
“It was an incredible time [working near Bletchley Park] and the camaraderie was something I couldn’t begin to describe,” she said.
“Perhaps that’s why I was so upset on Thursday night, because I thought ‘What is our society coming to?’ Coun Barnett apologised to Mrs Ratcliffe but said that section of the meeting was really only for members of the public to ask questions.
He said: “I can only apologise to her if she felt unfairly treated but I think actually I do read out that it is for questions only.”
He said councillors did sometimes speak aggressively towards each other but it was only because there were important issues at stake. But Coun Bluh said he had telephoned Mrs Ratcliffe the following day to apologise again and would reply to her letter too.
“It was very unfortunate and did nothing to enhance the council’s reputation,” he said.
“All members need to think very carefully about the part they played in it and we must make sure that in future we show our best side and not our worst side.”