The Full Council Meeting was due to start at 6.30pm, with doors opening at 6pm. The rain started at 5.30pm, one of many showers during the day, and at 5.45pm the Town Hall staff unlocked the doors and began letting the queue come in. A variety of people, mostly over 30 years in age, and mostly well spoken. Staff asked, “Are you speaking tonight?” “Are you able bodied enough to go up the stairs to the gallery?” The queue quietly entered. Speakers were given a visitors’ lanyard and shown into the main chamber. A lady in a wheelchair was taken to the lift. The building, built in the 1930s, was aimed at the fit and healthy, with impressive stairs to the main chamber, and a narrow steep staircase to the gallery.
Becky peeked outside and saw, not only still raining, but still a queue. 2017 meant walkie-talkie convenience, and she talked through to Tracey in the gallery. “I think we can fit about 10 more in up here,” Tracey said, with no knowledge of how many residents were climbing the staircase. She had asked them all to sit in the next available seat, but some seats remained vacant in the centre. Meanwhile, downstairs, Becky was trying to find out how many seats were available in the main chamber. Here councillors, staff, speakers and public were milling around, and it was impossible to count empty seats.
Nigel looked concerned, “Should we lock the doors?” It was only 6.15pm. Becky knew if they exceeded fire regulation limits they were in trouble. She also knew that locking people outside would cause a public outcry. Then she realised, despite helping word the Facebook post at 3pm, she had forgotten to do one single bag search. Her heart dropped onto the marble floor. She sighed. “Yes, let’s lock them in case we get in trouble here.”
The public petition about developing two car parks next to the town park had sparked a lot of interest. Mainly from people who didn’t need to work in this lousy old office block every day. Becky loved to sit in the park at lunchtime, and it would be great if they had a new office right next to it. There was also going to be a staff restaurant selling cappuccinos and wraps. Never mind, The Leader of The Council was so despite for an air conditioned office over looking the new flower beds, planted with his favourite petunias, there was no way a petition was going to stop this from going ahead.
Nigel went outside to talk to the queue, and Becky locked the door from inside. Now they were left with angry people outside, and limited knowledge of what was happening upstairs. Walkie-talkie crackle indicated The Mayor would soon be entering the main chamber. Becky spotted a TV camera outside. It looked like being a long evening’s work anyway, without all this. Plus it was her boyfriend’s birthday. First he’d been fed up it clashed with work, then he had arranged to go up the pub with some mates and said she could join them when she finished. Now she was the fed up one.
Suddenly there was commotion on the walkie-talkies, shouting on the landing, alarms going off. People were running down the main stairs. Becky quickly unlocked the main door, pushing Nigel aside. People were running everywhere and shouting. Staff stood at the top of the stair balcony directing people down the stairs. Becky could hear sirens outside – hardly necessary as they were next to the Police Station – followed by a police car driving through the crowd outside.
Tony ran to her side. “What on earth is going on?” she asked. “Did you do a bag search? All those old women that staggered up to the top, they each must have had a bag of flour in their handbags. The whole of the Cabinet are covered head to toe in white; tipped flour all over them from the gallery. Then the lot in the main chamber fired Nerf Guns back and forth to each other over the councillors heads. Please tell me you did remember to do a bag search…..”