Councillors at loggerheads over alleged racist remark at Christmas lights meeting
PUBLISHED: 15:45 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 27 September 2017
A councillor facing a conduct hearing over claims he made a racist remark has accused a councillor colleague who complained of being “vexatious and politically motivated”.
Carol Pilson, monitoring officer at Fenland District Council who compiled the conduct committee papers, said: “An informal resolution was not possible on this occasion.”
The complaint stems from a meeting of the March Christmas Light committee in June when Councillor Kit Owen (Con) is alleged by Councillor Martin Field (Lab) to have made a racist nature.
“Cllr Owen disputes making these comments,” says Ms Pilson. “As with all complaints it was attempted to resolve this matter informally”.
She said the chairman of the conduct committee Councillor Sam Hoy and an independent panel member agreed that a breach of the code of conduct may have occurred and needed the full committee to consider it.
Ms Pilson reports Cllr Field as claiming that during the meeting it was being discussed who should provide refreshments for the helpers at the Christmas lights switch-on.
“Various suggestions had been made then Kit said ‘we should ask a Muslim because they all have knives’” says Cllr Field.
Cllr Field alleges that no other reference had been made to knives or Muslims and that “he has muttered such things under his breath before at council meetings and I have questioned him about it before”.
The Labour councillor says Cllr Owen apologised but asked who he had offended,
“I told him humanity,” says Cllr Field.
“After the meeting a member of the committee, not a councillor, caught up with me as I was leaving and thanked me for challenging Kit over this. ‘He has been getting away with behaving like that for too long’ he told me.
“At the town council meeting where I raised this behaviour, expecting him to be admonished for his behaviour, he once again behaved as though I was simply spoiling his fun.”
Cllr Owen says that “I did apologise to him if I had offended him in any way, although I also added that I didn’t know how I had offended him if he would not repeat what I was supposed to have said.
“It appears that Councillor Field is now stating that the incident, which I contest, took place within the meeting. How can he state at a main town council meeting that the comment was made outside of a meeting and yet lodge a complaint to Fenland District Council claiming the opposite? His accurate recollection of the event has, at the very least, to be called into question.
“All councillors that I have spoken to concerning this matter back my version of events and, therefore, I believe that these complaints should be thrown out forthwith.”