Now that the integration of health and social care commissioning is going to happen, what’s the difference between an NHS trust board and a local council cabinet meeting? The answer is how they get there.

‘The body language was provocative, the exaggerated yawn every time he spoke, the turning away, the whispered aside’

Not whether they arrive by public transport or chauffer driven limo, but whether they were appointed by the secretary of health or elected by local people. The difference explains why not many people get to see what goes on in a board meeting but council meetings are open to the press and public. Does this affect how people behave and what they say? Of course it does.

The last meeting was the one to have been at. Threats and abuse were exchanged between members of the public and councillors, the chair was repeatedly called a liar by a councillor, members of the public joined in with shouts of “rubbish” and “shut up”. At some point during what was obviously a rowdy meeting one councillor allegedly hit another.

The police are investigating so we weren’t allowed to discuss the matter at this meeting. But that didn’t stop people from referring to “the disgraceful behaviour of certain people”.

Down to business

The chair read out a letter of complaint from a member of the public who attended the last meeting, it was a very articulate account of what she described as intimidation and bullying as well as rudeness and inappropriate behaviour. The letter had apparently appeared in full in the local paper. This presumably explained the large turnout and police presence for this meeting.

Parish council meetings don’t usually attract more than a handful of people unless there is a controversial item on the agenda like the district’s plans for new housing on the green belt. Mostly people don’t get excited about maintaining the grass verges or the hanging baskets down the main street.

It wasn’t clear what the issue was that got everyone so excited at the last meeting, but it soon became clear who the villain was, that he had his supporters in the audience and that other members of the committee intended to have their revenge. The body language was provocative, the exaggerated yawn every time he spoke, the turning away as in “I am ignoring you” and the whispered aside for the amusement of a co-conspirator all accompanied by comments from the public sat only a few feet away.

The first a vote of censure was not relating to the last meeting but “persistent” inappropriate behaviour. This was carried with two abstentions, to shouts of “stitch up” from a section of the public. Then a vote to remove this councillor from a long list of committees he sat on. Again carried with two abstentions following a half-hearted defence in which it was said that while the individual’s behaviour could not be condoned he made some good contributions to discussions.

The main business of the evening being over, we left.