'She shouted for 90 minutes': Councillor guilty of harassing railway staff

BVR train, inset with Karen Lawrence

Karen Lawrence was found to have intimidated BVR staff and not treated them with respect at a Standards Committee hearing in July - Credit: Archant/ Broadland District Council

A councillor found to have challenged railway workers in an "intimidating and confrontational manner" has called the investigation into her conduct "a waste of taxpayers' money".

In a Standards Committee meeting held by Broadland District Council (BDC) councillors decided Buxton Lib Dem councillor Karen Lawrence had broken the Members' Code of Conduct when she "aggressively" challenged Bure Valley Railway (BVR) staff about the "necessity" of railway maintenance work in November 2020.

The meeting was held back in July but the council claims details could not be made public sooner as they were being "finalised".

The complainant — David Lowe — alleged that over the course of a two-week period in November, Ms Lawrence harassed BVR staff.

During the standards hearing, a witness claimed she at one point arrived at the site, threw her bike on the ground and started "shouting and screaming in a very agitated manner" that he was destroying habitats.

Another volunteer said Ms Lawrence spent "90 minutes" shouting at him, using "disturbing" body language and failing to "treat him with respect".

Ms Lawrence, who was ordered to apologise to the staff, defended herself during the hearing by saying she did not shout or behave as witnesses had described. She admitted speaking sharply and with authority as there was "nothing to indicate the work was being done in an official capacity".

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She added that while she knew BVR volunteers were passionate about their trains, the local community was "equally passionate about wildlife".

The Bure Valley Railway, which will be handing out free strawberries and cream to passengers this we

Cllr Lawrence said she understood how passionate workers and volunteers with the BVR were about their trains - Credit: Archant

But speaking after the verdict was made public Ms Lawrence said the process had been "extremely painful" and felt it had been blown out of proportion.

She said: "I thought I'd done my homework, but there was just a miscommunication.

"The problem is that this work was being done without proper notice being given to councillors. I was just trying to understand the nature of the works.

"I was disappointed that before the situation could be resolved through dialogue a complaint had already been lodged.

"The BVR is an important asset to the area, and I have and always will cooperate with them.

"But all that needed to happen was a conversation. Hiring expensive lawyers to arbitrate over what was a minor miscommunication is a real waste of taxpayers money."