“A TOTAL disgrace.”

“Bringing this council into disrepute.”

“A rag bag of egos.”

Those were some of the many criticisms that members of the public levelled at councillors at last week’s full town council meeting.

A bumper crowd of ex-town councillors, current borough councillors and other figures from the local community packed out the Guildhall on Friday evening.

And during the public participation portion of the meeting, many of those present took the opportunity to voice their anger over the actions of the actions of the council and its members in recent months.

Councillors were called out for “pretentious schoolboy politics” as well as their actions on social media, with one current borough councillor advising members “seek professional, qualified external help” to work through their issues.

Twenty-one members of the public were present at the meeting. By comparison, ten out of 13 councillors attended, with councillors Richard Rowles, Christopher Ecclestone and Scott Blackmore absent.

Amongst those leading the lambasting of council and its actions of late was former town and borough councillor Len Gates.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) embarked on a two-a-half minute speech which was met with a round of applause from those others in attendance.

After labelling one of the meeting’s motions “pretentious schoolboy politics intended to perpetuate the squabble between two councillors, neither of whom is fit to hold public office,” he advised the authority defer the motion “because it needs to get a grip on the members who are bringing this council into disrepute with their arrogant and childish behaviour.”

He added: “This has now been going on for six months, during which time you destroyed your own reputations, the reputation of the council and quite possibly destroyed the council itself.”

Mr Gates noted that since the council was formed, and following “a 20-year cross- community campaign”, more than 40 local residents have put political allegiances aside to make the council work for residents.

He continued: “All that work has been trashed over the past six months by the so-called Andover Alliance – a rag bag of egos who can’t even agree when you have meetings.

“You spend your time hurling insults at each other on Facebook and then re-inventing the wheel with the self-indulgent politics we see on tonight’s agenda, all in a vain attempt to control a parish in which many of you have no interest and in some cases don’t even live.

“And now we have calls from one petulant member to close the council down unless he gets his own way.

“This behaviour needs to stop now. Get your act together or please get out.

“Far too many of you have shown yourselves unfit for office and should resign immediately.

“For God’s sake, go and go now before you do any more damage.”

Following a round of applause from those present, others spoke to echo Mr Gates’ sentiments.

Nigel Long revealed his dismay at the mayor’s recent calls to disband the authority, adding: “I’m publicly calling for him to jack it in, resign as the mayor and as councillor. He’s a total disgrace to the office of mayor, he’s a total disgrace as a councillor, it’s time he went.”

And Barbara Long, who served as the authority’s chairman until May this year,

Current borough councillor David Drew, another former town council chairman, even advised members to seek “professional” help to resolve their issues.

“As chairman of this council for two years,” he said, “may I suggest that you seek professional, qualified external help to resolve some of the issues because I empathise with what former councillor Len Gates says.

“You have an opportunity to sort it out. It needs to be done by an external facilitator.”

Cllr Lauren Banville, who as deputy mayor was standing in for absent town council chairman, Cllr Rowles, took the opportunity to apologise on behalf of the council.

She said: “I’m completely in agreement with all the comments.

“What’s been going on, on social media, should not affect what’s going on in this room. I think we all know that.

“I would like to apologise on behalf of the council for any distress anyone may have been caused from what they read, what they’ve heard or any comments that you found derogatory.

“It is something we’re going to look into it, it will be actioned, it is unacceptable and I am with you on that one. And I think all of our councillors, or most of our councillors, feel the same way.

“So it will be looked into and actioned.”