Council leader’s close shave with rioting students

Joseph Bulmer

North Devon Council leader’s date with the PM ends in close encounter with university fee protestors

A TRIP to 10 Downing Street ended in a close encounter with rioting students for a local council leader.

Cllr Des Brailey joined Conservative council leaders from across the county at a gathering called by Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday week.

The North Devon Council leader was ushered into the PM’s residence through a back entrance to avoid university tuition fee protestors but was unable to escape the chaos as he left the 4pm meeting.

“As I left Downing Street, I found myself walking behind a group of hooded youths,” Cllr Brailey told the Gazette.

“As we got level with a police van, one of the group dropped a 2x1 wooden baton on the floor. The police saw him and jumped out of the van and arrested him.

“It was quite an unnerving experience but I can’t help thinking about the young man who got himself arrested. It was a stupid thing to do and he’s probably ended up getting himself a criminal record,” added Cllr Bailey.

The rendezvous at number 10 was organised in the wake of savage local government cuts outlined in the coalition Government’s Spending Review.

“The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the place,” said Cllr Brailey.

“From the outside, 10 Downing Street looks like an ordinary terraced house, but inside it’s massive. I was led three-or-four stairs up a large staircase and into a reception room with around 200 other Conservative council leaders.”

Torridge’s James Morrish did not attend but Devon was well-represented by leaders from North Devon, Mid Devon, East Devon, Exeter, Teignmouth and South Hams councils.

“All the Devon leaders were stood together and we spoke with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. The Prime Minister came over and joked that we were supposed to be mingling. He had a good sense of humour and was very pleasant.

“Mr Cameron said he understood that things were going to be difficult for local councils but thanked us for our help and support and reassured us that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

“It was a useful meeting and as a result of discussions with leaders from West Somerset and Mid Devon district councils, we’ll be getting together again to talk about ways we can work more closely together and save money.”