A meeting of Melksham Town Council descended into chaos on Wednesday with one county councillor labelling it a ‘disaster’.

Melksham Town Council met virtually on Wednesday, August 5 following the suspension of the town clerk, Linda Roberts and her assistant Patsy Clover after a meeting last week – the reasons for which have yet to be disclosed.

The meeting was instead clerked by Steve Milton, who is the town clerk for Wilton, who asked that points relating to the discussion of employees be withheld until press and public were excluded.

Wiltshire councillor, Cllr Phil Alford said that the meeting was a ‘disaster’ before the council moved to closed session.

In the public session, Saffi Rabey said that ‘efforts to keep shutting down questions’ were ‘quite pathetic’, adding: “From a member of the public trying to be active in the community it really is quite worrying, and I don’t understand what any of you are trying to do. I’ve just lost all of you at this point I’m afraid.”

Cllr Aves asked Miss Rabey if she had a question, to be told: “You’ve been asked questions that you won’t answer. You won’t let people speak and you just keep on brushing over it."

This was followed by Cllr Clive Jefferies who said: “The impression has been given that certain councillors have taken executive control of the council.”

He was cut off by Cllr Aves who said that they could not discuss this point as ‘this is not the meeting for this kind of question’ reminding Cllr Jefferies of Mr Milton’s announcement .

He then pointed out that he had not received an agenda and ‘wouldn’t know what’s excluded’. Cllr Sue Brown echoed this, saying ‘we do not know at this stage what we can and can’t discuss’.

Cllr Martin Pain then asked who ‘chose, interviewed, appointed and agreed renumeration’ for Mr Milton, who also attended Monday’s Community Development Committee meeting.

Leader of the council Cllr Vanessa Fiorelli answered by saying that this was a question which could be answered only once press and public were excluded as it concerned staffing.

Cllr Richard Wiltshire questioned what was earmarked for the closed session, asking: “How can we have an item on the agenda which is dealing with illegal functions by certain councillors?”

Mr Milton said that there was information they could share with councillors but only in the closed session, as it would be ‘completely wrong’ to discuss those matters in open business and information will be provided to the public ‘in due course’.

The council then voted to bring the open session to a close and member of the press and public were asked to leave the Zoom meeting.

The council have yet to release a statement on decisions made.

Following the suspension of the town clerk and her assistant four town councillors have been accused of failing to follow correct procedures.

They are council leader Vanessa Fiorelli, deputy leader Adrienne Westbrook, current mayor Pat Aves – who is also a county councillor - and deputy mayor Geoff Mitcham.

The matter has since been brough to the attention of Wiltshire Police, as Cllr Hubbard said that the incident ‘may constitute Misconduct in Public Office’.

Wiltshire Police have since said that they are aware of the allegations and are working with the town council to ‘establish if any criminal offence has been committed’.

After the exclusion, Cllr Hubbard said that councillors voted to remove him from the meeting. He said: “At the meeting of Melksham Town Council last night the public were refused answers to their questions.

“So I attempted to ask as an elected councillor questions on behalf of the people I represent.

“I wanted to know about recent events where a few councillors had assumed executive powers.

“These are important questions that it is essential that councillors are allowed to ask.

“This is the whole point of democracy.

“These questions need to be asked at a time when we need to see all councillors working together to support our community.

“As a community we are facing challenges like never before, Covid-19, climate change, delegation of services to the Town Council as Wiltshire Council increasingly faces cuts. Now is the time to be working as a team.

“The result of my asking these questions was that as soon as the press and public were excluded from the meeting, the Liberal Democrat councillors voted on-block to kick me out.

“They didn’t want these questions to be asked.

“It is time we all started look forwards and focus on what the people of our town expect of their elected representatives.”