Speakers wife refused entry

THE wife of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow was today left red-faced after being refused entry to a day centre faced with the axe.

Shropshire Council stopped political activist Sally Bercow from entering the Grange Day Centre in Harlescott, Shrops, after making a special trip up from London.

The PR disaster occurred on Wednesday afternoon after Mrs Bercow, said she would still attempt to enter the centre after being invited by Nicky Clark, of the Shropshire Cares Campaign, which was set up to fight planned cuts by the council.

An embarrassing video shows an awkward confrontation between Mrs Bercow and council press officers, who in the end refuse her access.

In the clip, Mrs Bercow can be heard saying: “How is going to meet somebody who has invited me in…if you care about your residents, surely rather than forcing him to go into the car park. I should be able to go into the warm and see him.

“So basically your banning me from going in there. I had no idea.”

After communications officer Maria Jones says ‘we’re not banning you’, Mrs Bercow proceeds to walk towards the care home, where she is confronted by another council representative Adrian Johnson at the door.

“I’ve been told I’m not allowed to go in there,” she tells Mr Johnson, who then replies “that’s right.”

After asking ‘whys that?’, Mr Johnson says: ‘because, err’  before noticing a microphone and backtracking.

‘I’ll get a statement,” he awkwardly adds.

Mrs Bercow said before the exchange that she had been planning her visit for a couple of weeks. She said before the visit: “I was invited through Nicky Clark who is in touch with the service users.

“I think it’s extraordinary that I’m going to end up meeting these people, who are disabled, in the car park. It’s ridiculous and it seems Shropshire Council wants to avoid any scrutiny or controversy over this decision to close the Grange Day Centre.

“This centre is a lifeline to the people who use it. The council has got to be accountable for its actions.”

Asked whether she would still try and gain access to the centre despite being warned she was not welcome, she said: “I will try.”

Mrs Clark claimed that Mrs Bercow was being refused entry because she had not had a Criminal Records Bureau check, but that has been denied by the council.

Rian Huxley, spokeswoman for the council, said: “She will not be allowed in. We have received absolutely no direct prior notice about a visit today to the Grange Day Centre from either Nicky Clark or Sally Bercow.

“Of course, it is good, usual practice for any visits to be arranged in advance. We have agreed this approach with our service users whose welfare, as always, is our utmost priority.

“We would welcome a private visit with Mrs Bercow in the future and have extended this invitation to her.”

The council wants to close the centre on July 29 as part of its spending cuts, despite a 1,250 name petition to save it.

The centre has been running for 25 years and provides support and services to disabled people.

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