It’s Mr Etholen to you: Bucks County Council chief slaps down members for informal attire and use of first names

Carl Etholen and, below, Janet Blake
Carl Etholen and, below, Janet Blake
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A row over inappropriate dress sense and the use of first names at council meetings has broken out at county hall.

Bucks County Council chairman Carl Etholen hit out at members who had been removing their jackets and addressing each other by their first names at meetings, leaked emails reveal.

BCC Cllr Janet Blake

BCC Cllr Janet Blake

His stance was backed by council leader Martin Tett, but was met with opposition by cabinet member Janet Blake, who said the rules ‘hark back to the Dark Ages’.

Mr Etholen emailed all councillors after receiving a complaint following the most recent full council meeting.

He said: “I received a complaint about the decline in standards at these meetings.

“This concerns members removing their jackets without permission.

“It should be at the chairman’s discretion if we are experiencing extremely warm weather to allow this. The Oculus (where meetings are held) is air conditioned anyway therefore there should be no need.

“There were also officers who were not dressed appropriately either.

“This dress code is particularly important as all council meetings are web cast.

“Members were also addressing each other by Christian names which is too informal within the chamber.

“Please can you address other members as Mr, Ms or Miss with their surname? Where there are more than two members with the same surname, only then their first name should be used prior to their surname to address the correct person.”

However Mrs Blake, cabinet member for planning and transportation, disagreed on the second point, saying that ‘in the 21st century there’s a case for reconsidering the manner in which we’re all addressed’.

Mrs Blake said she wanted to ‘vent my spleen a bit’ on the subject and told councillors via email: “I must confess that I believe using Mr/Mrs/Ms as being rather antiquated and, dare I say, tends to give an impression of elitism in some way and harking back to the Dark Ages.

“Plain old Janet Blake would do me.”

Mr Tett, the Tory leader, has come down on the side of Mr Etholen, writing to other councillors that despite being a modern council, the authority should not ‘discard all traditions’.

He said: “This is a personal view, call me old fashioned (maybe even a little conservative?) but I think that public county council events should have a little ‘gravitas’ particularly now that they are web cast.

“A bunch of people chatting and calling each other ‘Dave’ or ‘Betty’ I’m not sure gives the right impression.

“More like a dinner party than a county council meeting.”

The council’s next full meeting is scheduled to be held on November 21.