By Kirsty Topping
AN exasperated council boss has slapped a school-style toilet ban on elected members who keep leaving the chamber.
Jock Houston has already been checking his watch and banning councillors who take more than two minutes for a
But the planning chairman of Scottish Borders Council has now imposed a
“zero tolerance’ approach to toilet trips.
Any councillor who leaves his or her seat is banned from taking any further part in that day’s meeting.
Councillor Houston insists the crackdown is essential because members who let themselves get caught short are missing vital points in important debates.
The council’s version of Watergate started in February when a member absented himself from the chamber for a suspiciously-long eight minutes.
Councillor Trevor Jones’ trip to the toilet meant he did not vote on controversial plans to change the route of a major road in the area.
As a result, the realignment of the A7 was passed by four votes to three, despite dozens of locals raising objections.
Mr Houston said today:
“Since February I have been checking my watch when councillors go and return and operating a two minute rule. Up until the last meeting this had been complied with. “
Two councillors, Donald Moffat and Carolyn Riddell-Carre, were told to leave the chamber, at the council HQ in Newtown St Boswells, after breaking the two-minute rule.
Mr Houston said enough was enough.
“It would not be acceptable in a court of law for a juror to nip out during evidence and from now on the same rules will apply to the planning committee,’ he said.
“We are, after all, a quasi-judicial body making important decisions such as the one in which we agreed to support the A7 alignment,’ he added.
Mr Houston said he was acting in line with other councils and would only relieve the ban in
“special circumstances’ and councillors would have to ask for an adjournment.
“If a member needs a comfort break between items, then he or she can request one and I will delay discussion until his or her return,’ he said.
Councillor Riddell-Carre complained today the rule was
“a wee bit’ like being at school and having to ask permission to go to the toilet.
“It’s a long time to sit, not just for councillors but for the officers as well and they can’t just say:
“Please sir, I need to go.” “
“It’s why I’ve suggested we have a proper break at midday,’ she said
But Councillor Houston is refusing to budge. He said:
“I don’t think councilors should be voting when they could have missed a vital point.
“It’s a bit like a trial; you cant have jurors walking out all the time or it would be a mistrial.
“If they kept having to go out to the bathroom it would descend into farce. “