Andover Town Council has passed a motion of no confidence in Mayor Richard Rowles following an extraordinary general meeting.

Councillors passed a motion which stated that the council “has no confidence in Councillor Rowles as Chair of Council/Town Mayor.”

The motion passed with six votes in favour and three against, with one abstention. The Council’s Liberal Democrat members refused to cast a vote on the motion.

Rowles has previously told the Advertiser that he will not stand down, with the council’s own standing orders noting that the chairman “unless he has resigned or becomes disqualified, shall continue in office and preside at the annual meeting until his successor is elected at the next annual meeting of the Council.”

The relevant statutes, such as the Local Government Act 1972, only provide for the disqualification of a member in a limited number of circumstances, including having been imprisoned for a period of more than three months within five years of an election or becoming bankrupt, so the motion will not force the Mayor to stand down or cause an election.

The motion was brough by Councillors Rebecca Meyer and Christopher Ecclestone, both members of the Andover Independents Party.

Cllr Ecclestone opened the debate on the motion, saying that Rowles had “broken the town council system and he needs to go.”

He said: “I have no confidence in him as the mayor, I have no confidence in him as the chair of meetings, I have no confidence in him as a politician.”

Cllr Meyer, meanwhile, said that the mayor’s behaviour was “an omnishambles of epic proportions.”

She said: “The office should be a position of integrity, transparency, representation of the people and this council as a whole, not one that serves the purpose of the officeholder, not one that delays important work that the council wishes to carry out and definitely not one that doesn’t work collaboratively, rather against the values the council holds dear.”

Fellow Andover Independents member Cllr David Coole said that the mayor had “lost sight of what it meant to be Andover Town Mayor.”

He said: “In less than a year, he managed to undo nine years of hard work by two previous administrations and more recently, brought the Council to its knees.

“The Mayor has undeniably and at times, has shamelessly failed to carry out the duties he pledged back in May 2019. The Council has suffered enough, the Town has suffered enough, we all have suffered enough.”

Speaking after a number of councillors spoke in favour of the motion, which he described as an “onslaught,” Rowles said that “town council business shouldn’t be about politics.”

He claimed that he had been subject to “constant harassment” and “lies” over the past 18 months, as well as “threats of physical violence.”

He said: “I’ve had issues with lots of people on this council, even [Cllr Robin Hughes] and [Cllr Luigi Gregori] in the past, but we’ve done our best to put this aside for the good of the town. This is an abhorrent waste of taxpayers money.”

Cllr Jo Coole had previously made allegations of bullying against the Mayor during the meeting and said: “Any vote against the motion, or even an abstention, signifies you condone his actions.”

This statement caused objection from a number of members, with Cllr Robin Hughes saying that the statement was “wrong.”

He said: “If I abstain tonight, it’s because I don’t support this motion as such because I think it’s here for no good reason. There is a procedure going on, and I don’t know if the mayor suddenly disappeared and we had a new one what that would do to the grievance procedures.”

Cllr Hughes had previously quoted from Romeo and Juliet when criticising members of the other two parties on the council, saying: “A plague on both your houses, may I say, whether you’re the Andover Alliance or the Andover Independents Party.

“This town has suffered because of the behaviour of all of you. Not one of you, all of you. You’re as bad as one another.”

Fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Luigi Gregori concurred, saying that he was “quite surprised” by the motion, adding that there was “far, far too much politicking.”

He said: “This motion is a completely waste of time and taxpayers money. The mayor’s made it quite clear, and he’s well within his rights, that even if we vote against him he will not resign.”

After all councillors were given the opportunity to speak, the motion was voted on.

Cllrs Ecclestone, Meyer, Jo Coole, David Coole, Asamoah and Treadwell voted for the motion, while Cllrs Banville, Long and Rowles voted against. Cllr Sangster abstained, while Cllrs Gregori and Hughes refused to vote on the motion.