SOMPTING Parish Council has labelled MP Tim Loughton a coward following comments made on Twitter, in which he likens the council to the Vicar of Dibley.
SPC wrote to the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham asking him to delete a number of tweets which it said were ‘unfair, inaccurate and misleading’.
In a series of tweets posted over the last 17 months, Mr Loughton criticises the council, mocking its meetings, policies, and accusing it of failing to support certain community initiatives.
Parish clerk David Porter wrote to Mr Loughton, asking him to remove the ‘misleading and downright untrue comments’ within a month or risk facing further action.
Mr Loughton’s somewhat insincere response suggested that ‘some crackpot in possession of a lot of misinformation’ was ‘causing mischief’ by trying to censor his communications.
He described the council’s claims as ‘bizarre and inarticulate’ and ‘absurd’.
As a result, SPC voted unanimously to report Mr Loughton to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Speaking at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, councillor Sharon Wood slammed the MP’s response as ‘facetious’ and ‘less than professional’.
“We will not allow any person to write inaccurate things about this parish council on their Twitter feed,” she said.
Councillor David Bamber called for the council to take the complaint ‘to the next stage’ as Mr Loughton had made no attempt to address members’ concerns.
Councillor Gareth Smith said the council had to live up to its word or it would just be all talk. “We have to take it further,” he said.
Mr Loughton hit back at SPC, saying its reaction to his tweets was an attempt to limit his free speech.
Rather than delete the tweets as asked, the MP launched a fresh Twitter offensive with a barrage of new posts on Thursday.
“Dibley Council (AKA Sompting Parish) have already banned public from using technology at council meetings now they want 2 ban free speech too,” he tweeted.
When asked to comment on the stand off, Mr Loughton said he had always been treated with ‘huge animosity’ when he had attended SPC meetings in the past.
“I have been appalled by the contempt that certain councillors show towards local residents and to me, and the fact that they have now wasted hours of council time and resources effectively trying to stifle my free speech just sums up what an expensive embarrassment SPC has become,” he said.