WESTBRIDGE Park became a metaphorical war zone on Tuesday night when one Stone Councillor likened colleagues fighting to keep the park green to the Taliban.
The stinging verbal assault by Stone Councillor Phillip Jones on Councillor Jill Hood and Councillor Rob Kenney came during a Stafford Borough Council meeting debate on the Borough Plan.
The plan created controversy by naming Westbridge Park as a site for 'mixed-used development' and led to the formation of the Keep Westbridge Park Green campaign.
Councillor Jones accused Councillor Hood of scaremongering and misleading local people in her efforts to enlist public support in a petition signed by nearly 5,000 people asking that the site remain free from development
"They tell us what we can't have, they say we cannot have a supermarket, they say we cannot have a health centre, they say we cannot have a children's play area.
"They are the Taliban of Stone!"
He said Councillor Hood had an ‘insatiable’ appetite for publicity intimating she must have been annoyed her 'protege' Councillor Kenney had been the one to start the petition and not her.
Councillor Hood remained composed under the torrent of abuse, laughing it off saying if she had been wearing a hat she would have taken it off to Councillor Jones.
Councillor Hood tabled a motion to delete a section of the Borough Plan saying there would be need for a new supermarket in Stone by 2015, which she felt opened the door for a development the people of the town had said they did not want.
The motion was defeated and the Borough Plan was approved by the full council.
After the meeting, Councillor Tom Harris called Councillor Jones' comments ‘disgraceful’ and called on him to apologise.
"Councillor Jones should apologise for comparing councillors working hard to serve Stone residents to the murderous Taliban," he said. "If I had said Councillor Jones's Tories were like Stone's IRA I'd have been kicked out of the chamber."
She did call on the chair of the council however to reprimand councillor Jones for naming Mr Kenney, a member of the public at the meeting of Stafford Borough Council and unable to defend himself from the attack.
Responding several hours later on social networking site Twitter it was clear the insult had left its mark.
Councillor Hood said: "Still smarting at the insensitivity of Councillor Jones.
“I normally respect his wit but not tonight's jibe," she said. "It’s a bit much calling a woman who stands up for democracy and free speech for her town The Stone Taliban."
Speaking to the Newsletter after the meeting, Councillor Kenney said Councillor Jones, a Stone Town Councillor, Stafford Borough Councillor and Staffordshire County Councillor, had insulted not only him and Councillor Hood, but the troops that have given their all to fight in Afghanistan.
“He thinks using the word Taliban in a jovial joking way is OK or even the norm. How wrong can he be?
“Many families have lost loved ones at the hands of the Taliban, I‘m sure they don’t think that the Taliban are a joke.”
He said Councillor Jones, who named Councillor Kenney several times, should have been bought to order by the chair of the meeting.
“Naming an individual that has no chance of reply or chance to speak is breach of all code of conducts and standing orders,” he said. “Phillip Jones is a chairman and should know rules of conduct. If he doesn’t then it begs the question should he be a chairman?”
Talking to the Newsletter today, Councillor Jones said: "People should not put themselves forward to be councillors if they cannot deal with the rhetoric that bounces to and fro across council chambers."