Jackies Authority

5 Mins

Are you Team Jackie on this one?

"You have no authority here Jackie Weaver, no authority at all!"

It was the parish council Zoom meeting that gripped a nation in lockdown and made an unlikely star of the acting clerk Jackie Weaver. And after many investigations (and quite a few t-shirt sales), newly published reports conclude that Jackie didn’t have the authority after all.

But is it that clear cut? It took 6 reports costing £85,000 to get that answer. And virtual local council meetings were new territory not covered by those pesky standing orders.

The infamous footage of the feisty meeting of the Planning and Environment committee of the Handforth Parish Council included the sound of a flushing loo and various local councillors being muted, failing to mute themselves, or put back into the virtual waiting room for disruptive behaviour.

Chair Brian Tolver claimed that the meeting itself hadn’t been called “in accordance with the law” and then became disruptive. But it seems his legal argument was an error and the meeting was indeed lawful and her authority to clerk it was also legal.

What the reports found was that Jackie deciding to remove Brian from the virtual meeting didn’t fit due process and was outside her authority.

The standing orders suggest disruptive people can be removed by the chair, but it’s not clear what happens if the chair themselves is the disruptive one. The reports sympathise with her situation:

“...we can understand why JW [Weaver] acted as she did, despite her action being without any formal footing in terms of appropriate process and procedure.”

Jackie herself feels the proper procedure was unclear and the disruptive ones were held in a waiting room, not kicked out, and later councillors voted to remove them.

In April 2021 the High Court ruled council meetings have to be in person, putting an end to virtual ones and the chance for more chaotic council meetings to go viral.

Written by Jason Connolly