A PROTESTER who wore a gas mask to a council meeting was criticised by the authority’s leader after he “deliberately” coughed during a minute’s silence to a late councillor.

William Hones, of Marine Parade East, Clacton, sat in the front row of the public gallery during the council meeting at Clacton Town Hall and recorded councillors on his mobile telephone.

During a minute’s silence to long-serving St James ward councillor John Hughes, who died at the weekend after an illness, Mr Hones could be heard coughing a number of times.

Mr Hughes decided to represent the Coastal Independents after defecting from Ukip following a split in the party.

Mr Hones, who unsuccessfully stood for election himself, has been a constant critic of councillors.

He has been especially outspoken against former Ukip councillors who have defected to other parties.

Mr Hones defended his actions and said: “I was wearing the gas mask because of the stench of hypocrisy.

“I’m a bit eccentric and I think they think I’m strange and crazy because no-one has ever protested continually for two years.

“The reason I’m doing it is because a councillor came up to me and said everyone would forget they defected within six months – I said I’d be the one bloke who doesn’t forget.

“When I think an organisation has no respect, I’m not going to show respect.”

He added: “These career politicians have only one aim - to keep their hooter in the trough.

“They have and will continue to jump from one party to another just to keep their egos inflated and get the allowances.

“The stench of hypocrisy and the total disregard of the voters emanating from the council meeting was overwhelming - I needed to wear a gas mask to enter the building.”

However, Tendring Council leader Neil Stock was angered by Mr Hones’ interruption during the minute’s silence.

During the meeting, he said: “I didn’t appreciated the gentleman in the audience, who is dressed like a womble, coughing all the way through, deliberately, during the minute’s silence.

“If we can’t respect someone with a minute of silence then I think it’s a very poor state of affairs.”

The old-fashioned gas mask resembles the features of the fictional popular pointy-nosed Wombles created by children’s author Elisabeth Beresford.

Mr Hones previously had a run in with former cabinet member Mick Skeels Senior, who issued threats to Mr Hones and swore at him on the steps of the council building.

Mr Skeels Senior was stripped of his cabinet position after Mr Hones recorded the incident and placed the exchange on the You Tube website.