A MEETING of a local authority whose members had signed a pledge to show respect to each other following several bitter council chamber rows has again descended into a slanging match.

As an online meeting of Darlington Borough Council stretched into its seventh hour, members exploded with anger at nearly 1am as a notice of motion brought by Labour councillors over fireworks was being considered.

Introducing the motion, Labour councillor Sajna Ali had told members many residents were extremely concerned about the misuse of fireworks and that the council should promote laser light displays and silent fireworks.

She called on members to support the RSPCA’s campaign to cut the use of loud fireworks in the interests of animals and vulnerable people.

Cllr Ali said: “Whilst I understand they can bring enjoyment to many, They can cause significant fears when misused and bought for antisocial behaviour.”

However, the deputy leader of the Conservative-run council Jonathan Dulston changed the motion, erasing references to the devastating impact loud fireworks have on specific groups of people and cutting out some key elements of the motion, such as agreeing to press the Government for a legal noise limit for fireworks.

The amendment, which Tory and Independent members approved, also cut a proposal to back the RSPCA campaign to encourage suppliers of fireworks to stock quieter fireworks for public display.

While maintaining that public fireworks displays should be advertised in advance and a public awareness campaign to highlight the impacts on vulnerable people and animal welfare, Cllr Dulston’s version added that councillors support bringing back the South Park fireworks display in 2022.

He said the display would lead to fewer private displays, cutting noise and safety risks across the town. Cllr Dulston said: “We will provide a controlled environment and it will mitigate the need for others to do their own version of a bonfire.”

However, his proposal prompted a strong response from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors, who claimed the original notice of motion had been made “meaningless”.

After Labour Councillor Nick Wallis said he believed Darlington to be the first council in the country to reject the RSPCA’s campaign, Independent councillor Kevin Nicholson accused the Labour group of contradictory statements and said the public would “see through” Labour’s claims.

Labour councillor Eddie Heslop replied: “I think the public tonight will see exactly through the Tory Party in this town. How despicable you all are, including their Independent followers who hang on their every coat-tails.

“You’re not that independent, you vote against feeding kids, you vote against anything that’s half decent in this town, and you’re just twisted, in your own bitter, twisted way Cllr Nicholson.”

Cllr Nicholson told the meeting personal attacks were forbidden by the council’s standing orders and called on Cllr Heslop to apologise and withdraw his comments. Cllr Heslop then immediately apologised, but Cllr Nicholson said he would only accept a written apology to the entire council.

Following the exchange, other councillors as unaccustomed to controversy as Cllr Heslop, accused each other of lying and poor behaviour.

After seeking legal advice, Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Chris McEwan said the matter needed to be resolved outside the council chamber.