SHARP divisions among councillors rose to the surface at last week's full town council meeting in Ledbury, with accusations of bullying and the sending of "awful and degrading emails".

The claims came about following a motion by Cllr Liz Harvey, seconded by Cllr Andrew Warmington, that "the time was right" for the town council to undertake a professional review of council operations, to ensure that "we are working well with one another and with others to do a good job".

Cllr Noel Roberts, a former town mayor, said: "I'm fed up of being told by one councillor how we should work as councillors."

Facing Cllr Harvey, Cllr Roberts said: "You bully people. You tell them how to do things. I don't agree with this at all."

Cllr Roberts also said that Cllr Warmington had only been a councillor "for five minutes".

Later in the same meeting, Cllr Roberts spoke of "personality clashes" and he apologised.

He said: "I apologise to both my colleagues for my comments."

Cllr Warmington, in response, accepted the apology, but said: "There are a lot of personality clashes and I would like them to stop."

Strong words, during the same debate, had also been voiced by other town councillors.

Cllr Debbie Baker was critical of some of the emails being sent between councillors.

She said: "Some of the emails are awful and degrading. It is not being respectful to each other at all.

"This is not going to make anything any better."

Cllr Elaine Fieldhouse said the time was not right for a council review with both the Town Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan not completed.

She said: "Let's get the Town Plan out of the way and let's get the Neighbourhood Plan out of the way, so a council review can be refocussed on."

Concerning divisions in the council, she said: "Some of the emails I get are rather patronising. If I were younger, that would offend me.

"Just remember good manners, everyone."

Cllr Jayne Roberts felt that healing the divisions in the council was the important thing.

She said: "I feel we don't have a cohesive council. We don't look at things in the same way, and we should look at that problem before undertaking any review."

Cllr Keith Francis said: "There has been disharmony in recent years."

Cllr Harvey suggested it was important to carry out the review, although as it would be carried out by professionals there would be cost implications.

She said:"I question whether we can afford not to do it".

It has been almost a decade since the last Ledbury Town Council review was undertaken.

"Let invest in ourselves," she said.

Concerning the strong words spoken in the debate, Cllr Harvey said: "It was never in my mind that this would be about individuals or personalities."

Cllr Warmington said: "Cllr Harvey expressing her views and me expressing mine is not bullying."

Cllr Andrew Harrison said: "I don't think its patronising at all, and certainly not bullying, for us to have training."

But Cllr Martin Eager said the focus of the review should be on the council's duty of care towards its staff.

He said: "As a council we have a duty of care towards our staff, and they have a considerable workload. The councillor side of things something we've got to sort out ourselves."

Cllr Rob Yeoman said: "Our staff are overworked, with too many priorities. I would be happy for a professional review of the way councillors treat staff and to look at the duties we want them to do.

"For a member of staff to be sick with stress is a situation we can't afford."

The council, on a vote, decided to "invest in a professional review, to the undertaken in 2016 and implemented in 2017". Budget provision will be made.

But the idea will be also be discussed at an extraordinary full council meeting in January.

This was a suggestion by Cllr Bob Barnes, and it won the backing of Ledbury's mayor, Cllr Annette Crowe.

She said: "I think Cllr Barnes's suggestion is a good suggestion.

"I do think we need to have a meeting as to how we can all work together."