Members of a city council have decided to cancel face-to-face meetings with residents while security measures are reviewed.

The new Romney City Council (NRTC) announced that all surgeries have been postponed until next year following “recent national events.”

Meeting rooms in New Romney

This refers to the murder of Sir David Amess, an MP who was stabbed during a constituency operation in Southend last month.

Her death followed that of another MP, Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed multiple times in 2016, just before she was due to have surgery in her constituency.

The NRTC typically holds its meetings in boardrooms closer to church on a monthly basis, although this has been reduced to every two months during the pandemic.

But a review of security measures found the venue “failed” in a few areas.

A council statement said: “We regret to inform you that the monthly surgeries for the advisers have been postponed to January 2022 while security and other issues are reviewed following recent national events.”

Sir David Amess.  Image: PA
Sir David Amess. Image: PA

It comes as District MP Damian Collins has also changed the way he meets voters and currently only performs surgeries in his Folkestone office, where security has been stepped up following Ms Cox’s death.

New Romney Mayor Cllr Paul Thomas said council has a “duty of care” to ensure meetings are held safely.

He also said police have been called twice to NRTC meetings in recent years – once when two residents refused to leave a private meeting and became abusive of staff, and a second time when a former advising has become abusive.

Cllr Thomas explained: “Our MP, the district councilors and the NRTC councilors are having surgery one after the other in the same place, the meeting rooms.

“When Damien Collins told us he was canceling his operations, pending a review of the security arrangements, we thought we should do the same.

Cllr Paul Thomas.  Photo: Susan Pilcher
Cllr Paul Thomas. Photo: Susan Pilcher

“We have looked at the advice of the Association of Local Governments and our current meeting room arrangements do not measure up to these in a few areas.

“Ward and town councilors have more access to residents than the MP because we are in the community every day talking to people.

“We respond personally to all emails and phone calls we receive.

“We have one board meeting about every week, either of the full board or of various committees.

“As a counsel, we have a duty of care to our counselors and must ensure that our arrangements for counselors’ surgeries are strong.”

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe
Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe

Cllr Thomas added: “I have to say I feel safe at council meetings, but even we had to call the police to council offices / council chambers on two occasions in 2019, due to concerns we had regarding the safety of our council officers.

“None of them were linked to the ‘terrorist’.

“We will review the situation when the revised notice is issued and then change our arrangements to comply with the revised notice.”

Mr Collins currently only performs surgeries in Folkestone, but hopes to resume at all sites from next month.

He said: “I pursue regular face-to-face surgeries.

“I hope we can start using all the sites again from next month …”

“We take the advice of the police and conduct a security review of all the sites we use and discuss this with the operators of the sites as well.

“I hope we can start using all the sites again from next month.

“Since the murder of David Amess, we have been organizing surgeries in my constituency office in Folkestone which already has security measures in place.”

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