County councillor apologises after being caught smoking on camera during meeting
PUBLISHED: 17:52 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 07 July 2020
A councillor has apologised for smoking on camera during a virtual council meeting.
Liberal Democrat Barbara Ashwood was taking part in the Cambridgeshire County Council communities and partnership committee via video link from her own home on Thursday, July 2 when the incident took place.
The video is available to the public as the virtual meeting was broadcast live online, as all public council meetings have been since the government passed legislation to allow it during the pandemic.
A Conservative councillor, Lina Nieto, drew attention to the councillor smoking by posting a screenshot on Twitter and commenting that Cllr Ashwood was “having a smoke during committee”.
The incident drew criticism from the leader of the county council, Conservative Steve Count, who said on Twitter: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. We have responsibility for public health!”
He tagged the South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat group and said “inappropriate councillor behaviour when on council business”.
He added: “We run massive campaigns to help people pack up smoking. Cllr Ashwood is on official duty. That is an issue for me.”
Cllr Ashwood said: “I have apologised and Steve has accepted that apology.”
Online reaction to the incident was mixed.
Fellow Lib Dem councillor Amanda Taylor tweeted: “Count distracting us from the real issues. Barbara had just done a grand job at committee standing up for library staff being relocated to an isolated industrial park with no public transport links.
“I reckon she deserved a cigarette, in her own home, not affecting anyone else.”
The committee was deciding on plans to relocate the library service’s distribution centre away from Ascham Road in Cambridge to the Lakes Business Park in St Ives at the time.
Cllr Ashwood, who worked for the library service for 49 years, had argued the move may force people out of their jobs.
The chairman of the committee, Conservative councillor Steve Criswell, had defended the decision and said he hoped staff leaving the service could be avoided.
The county council budgeted more than £700,000 for its work on reducing smoking in the county last year.
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