Chiswick councillor Joanna Biddolph suspended

Chiswick councillor Joanna Biddolph has been suspended from the Conservative Party Group of councillors.

Her status on Hounslow Council’s website has been quietly changed from ‘Conservative’ to ‘Independent Conservative’ and she is not now listed with the rest of the Conservative Group on the website. Her status on her X (Twitter) account now just reads ‘councillor’, with no mention of ‘Conservative’.

The Hounslow Conservative Group has put out this statement:

‘The Hounslow Conservative Group confirms that Cllr Joanna Biddolph has been suspended as a member of the group following an internal investigation and subsequent vote by members.’

For a suspension vote to be carried it has to be supported by at least a two-thirds majority. The Chiswick Calendar understands she has been suspended for three months for a pattern of bullying behaviour which has continued after she was warned about it by the Conservative Group leader Peter Thompson last year.

Image above: Conservatives launching their Local Elections manifesto in April 2022; Joanna Biddolph (in orange), second from the right, middle row

Bringing the reputation of the Conservatives into disrepute

The Chiswick Calendar understands Cllr Biddolph’s suspension is in part because of her conduct towards her colleagues within the Conservative group. She was almost suspended last year over a falling out over plans for the development of Old Market Place by Chiswick Flower Market, which various of her colleagues support but she does not.

Her behaviour has been described to us as “bullying” by several people who have had dealings with her, and we understand the suspension also reflects a pattern of ‘bullying’ behaviour.

Cllr Joanna Biddolph

‘Disclosing confidential information’ and ‘misusing her position as a councillor’

Cllr Biddolph was criticised by the Conservative Group for bringing the group into disrepute before the last local elections after a member of the public complained that she had told protestors against the C9 Cycle Lane that Hounslow Council’s security officers had advised councillors to go into Hounslow House by the back door before a key meeting, for their own safety.

After an inquiry by a Council officer, she had to apologise for disclosing confidential information and misusing her position as a councillor.

In her dealings with local community groups, a number of them say they have experienced quite powerful aggression from her when she has disagreed with something they have been doing.

Image above: Old Market Place on flower market day; photograph Frank Noon

Heckling the presentation of plans at the Chiswick Area Forum

The directors of the Chiswick Flower Market commissioned landscape architect Luke Greysmith to come up with a design to cheer up the area outside George IV, from Devonshire Rd to Linden Gardens, where the Sunday outdoor markets are now held.

READ ALSO: Chiswick Flower Market organisers present plans to improve ‘Old Market Place’

The plans are a bid to improve the infrastructure, which is visibly crumbling, and make it greener. They presented them to a well-attended meeting in the Boston Room of George IV pub in October 2022, and at subsequent markets.

When Flower Market Director Ollie Saunders presented the plans to the Chiswick Area Forum, his presentation was interrupted by heckling from Cllr Biddolph, who also has also sent the Flower Market team an aggressively worded letter about their plans for one of the markets.

Image above: FoodSt market

Personalising opposition to the street food market

The most recent outdoor market to be set up to run on Sundays in Chsiwick High Rd is the FoodSt market, run by Richard Johnson. Cllr Biddolph led a campaign to stop the food market from getting a licence, arguing it would affect the trade of existing food businesses in the high street.

She submitted a ten page statement in opposition to the licencing panel. Richard told us he expected there to be opposition, but he was struck by how personal she made the argument. He was granted a licence for three months initially to try it out and then granted six months in January once it was deemed to be a success.

READ ALSO: FoodSt Chiswick market founder welcomes decision to let the market continue with more stalls

Commenting on the Council’s decision to give him the licence in January, he told us:

“The key thing is that we got approval; the Council saw the virtue of what we were doing after a nasty personal campaign.”

At the second Licensing Panel hearing Cllr Biddolph heckled a high street cafe owner who was speaking in favour of the street food market, interrupting her and speaking over her. The business owner, who had no experience of Council meetings and is not involved in politics, was startled by the “aggression” of her intervention.

Image above: Turnham Green in the spring

Cherrygate

The effect Cllr Biddolph’s personal interventions can have first became publicly apparent in the Friends of Turnham Green’s decision to plant cherry trees on Turnham Green in February 2020. Her intervention blew up and became known as ‘Cherrygate’.

The Friends had received a donation of £5,000 to buy more trees to supplement the cherry tree avenue on Turnham Green and the decision had been passed by a large majority at their AGM.

The trees were bought and volunteers turned up to help with the planting, but it was cancelled the night before, because Joanna Biddolph complained to the Council that the decision had been undemocratic.

READ MORE: Life is just a bowl of cherries – not

The trees, which needed to be planted within a couple of months, went elsewhere. The Freinds of Turnham Green nearly folded because of the fallout. It was in abeyance for several months while the organisation drew up a new constitution and held new elections for its committee.

Rebecca Frayn

Joanna Biddolph’s behaviour “undemocratic” and “deranged”

Rebecca Frayn, an environmentalist who lives on Turnham Green, had been Chair at the time of ‘Cherrygate’ and was re-elected with an overwhelming majority, but it was not long before Cllr Biddolph was again cricitising the way in which decisions were made about the planting of trees on the Green.

READ MORE: Rebecca Frayn re-elected as Chair of Turnham Green Friends

READ MORE: Environmentalist Rebecca Frayn attacks Chiswick councillor Joanna Biddolph’s “undemocratic” and “deranged” behaviour

Because there had been such a fuss about it, Hounslow Council set up a consultation in December 2021 about what trees the public would like to see on the Green, which the councillor construed as ‘cocking a snook at Chiswick’. She again tried to disrupt the process and take control of how it was managed.

Rebecca Frayn responded with a furious open letter, calling her behaviour “undemocratic” and “deranged”. Frayn said the work of her group of community volunteers was being made “increasingly untenable” by the “high-handed autocratic and self-serving behaviour” of the councillor.

Trying to evict the editor of The Chiswick Calendar from a meeting with businesses and the police

My own experience of Cllr Biddolph’s displeasure was at the recent meeting she organised with business people and the police about shoplifting. I went because it was The Chiswick Calendar who raised the issue last summer, but also because we run the Club Card scheme, which represents a number of businesses trading in Chiswick.

She tried to get me to leave the meeting, even though I said I was happy not to report on it directly, so people could speak freely, first of all asking the police to evict me and then calling a vote on whether or not I should be ejected. Fortunately a number of traders voted for me to stay, while only one man put up his hand to eject me, but it was excruciatingly embarrassing being the focus of her attempt to have me ejected from a meeting which was only being held because we had raised the issue for public discussion.

READ ALSO: Dramatic rise in shoplifting, theft and pickpocketing in Chiswick shops

READ ALSO: Brazen thieves return to break into Chiswick shop after £25,000 heist

The Chiswick Calendar has spoken to many people who have had dealings with Cllr Biddolph who have been taken aback by the aggressiveness of her conduct, but there are few who are prepared to speak out because of the influence she wields as an elected councillor.

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