Agenda item

Leader's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Leader of the Council.


The Leader of the Council gave a statement regarding the events in Israel and Gaza.


The Leader said that his heart went out to everyone who had been caught up in the dreadful events in Israel and Gaza and to those residents in East Herts with loved ones impacted by the appalling violence. He said he appreciated their fear for family and friends in the region and said he had relatives in Israel, no doubt like other people in the Chamber.

He said that the attacks by Hamas on civilians on the 7th October were horrific. The deaths during those attacks and the seizure of hostages, including women and children, was appalling. Such brutality had no justification and he called for the immediate release of all hostages.

The Leader said that the killing that was continuing across the region was also unacceptable and called for an immediate end to the violence. He said that the targeting of civilians, whoever they were, breached international law and should never be acceptable. He said that the Government must work with the international community to protect civilians and infrastructure from attack, to provide immediate humanitarian relief and to end the cycle of violence. He said that the world needed a meaningful political negotiation to bring peace.

The Leader said that he was deeply concerned that the escalating situation could impact community relationships in East Herts. He said that the district’s communities were strong but as local leaders, they must do everything they could to reduce tension and division, avoid actions that could inflame the situation, and encourage communities to be united, whatever their cultures and faiths.

The Leader said that Councillor Martin Butcher had made a serious mistake posting inflammatory comments on social media while he was Chair of East Herts Council. He said he had stepped down from his position and has made a full apology for any offence that he might have caused. The Green Leadership Team in East Herts had discussed a suspension and investigation, but by mutual agreement Councillor Butcher would be leaving the EHC Green group. He thanked Councillor Butcher for his hard work as Chair and as one of the Green group.

The Leader said that it was vitally important to remind councillors of their responsibilities as elected members. He said they were elected and at all times their responsibility was to their community. He said that as a Council, it would do everything it could to support residents whose families and friends had been caught up in the awful conflict. It was vital that councillors worked hard locally to reduce tension, and in a time of crisis that was more important than ever. He said that the Israel-Palestine conflict can spark intense emotions and the UK had already seen demonstrations and a rise in racism and prejudice. He hoped that the Council could agree to do its absolute best to prevent that from happening here.

The Leader said that the Council’s role as leaders across East Herts was clear: they must stand together and encourage unity over division.

The Leader of the Council invited the Leaders of the other political groups to make their own statements.

Councillor Deering, Leader of the Conservative group, said that it was right the Council had observed a minute’s silence at the start of the meeting. He acknowledged the Leader’s comments and said it was right that Councillor Butcher had stood down as Chairman of the Council and noted that he had left the Green group. He said that appalling acts of terrorism had occurred with the murder of innocent families and babies, taking children and the elderly hostage and was completely unacceptable and was terrorism of the worst kind. He said that his heart went out to everyone involved and hoped that peace and safety would return to the region. He said that he endorsed the Leader’s comments about showing leadership to everyone in East Herts and said there was no place for prejudice against any community.


Councillor Goldspink, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, endorsed the comments of Councillor Crystall and Councillor Deering. She said everyone had been horrified and dismayed by events in Israel and Gaza and the attacks on civilians by a terrorist organisation. She said the Liberal Democrat group unequivocally condemned all attacks on innocent civilians and as bystanders in the UK, their hearts went out to all those caught up and affected by the tragedy. She said her and the group’s deepest sympathy and condolences went to all those who were mourning, suffering or sick with worry about friends and relatives and hoped and prayed that leaders of nations with influence could devise a peaceful solution to the conflict.


Councillor Jacobs, Leader of the Labour group, thanked the Leader of the Council for the opportunity to speak on the situation. He echoed many comments made by the other Members. He said that there were not the words to describe the horror of what was happening and what might happen if the situation continued. He said that the UK government must continue to press for Hamas to release all the hostages and act in accordance with international law providing access to food, water and aid and safe humanitarian corridors. He said, however, that even in the darkest moments there was always hope and said he had seen the end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall and peace in Northern Ireland. He said the world must not give up on the Middle East and hoped for an end to the conflict.