William Eichler 17 May 2024

Councillor accused of making ‘racist remarks’ during LGA meeting

Councillor accused of making ‘racist remarks’ during LGA meeting image
Image: Uuganbayar / Shutterstock.com.

A Tendring district councillor has been found to have breached the councillors’ Code of Conduct by allegedly making ‘highly offensive’ and ‘racist remarks’.

A complaint was made about Cllr Nick Turner’s behaviour during two virtual meetings of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group (SIG) in June last year.

Ernest Gibson, a councillor at South Tyneside Council and chairman of the SIG, claimed Cllr Turner breached the council’s members’ Code of Conduct by making a ‘wholly inappropriate and disrespectful verbal attack’ on an Environment Agency officer.

Cllr Gibson also alleged that Cllr Turner made ‘highly offensive’ and ‘racist remarks’ about people of Afro-Caribbean descent, with the ‘implication that members of the community were unable or unwilling to learn how to float’.

The complainant added that Cllr Turner then made ‘comments about the clothing that people of specific faiths wear when in the sea, indicating that in his view, the clothing was inappropriate’.

A defence submission on behalf of Cllr Turner said: ‘He was intent on highlighting perceived barriers to swimming education and facilities, rather than intending to make derogatory remarks.’

An investigation by an external investigator concluded there was sufficient evidence to show Cllr Turner had breached the code on four counts but said the remarks were ‘made out of ignorance rather than malice’.

The investigator added Cllr Turner’s language was ‘clumsy and patronising rather than being rooted in what might be described as out-and-out racism’.

The council’s Standards Committee found that Cllr Turner had breached the Code of Conduct but there was no ‘conscious discriminatory intent’ behind his words.

Cllr Turner has apologised and resigned from the SIG.

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