Mark Whitehead 25 October 2019

Councillors apologise to staff over 'pagan ritual' offer

Councillors apologise to staff over pagan ritual offer image

Two councillors have apologised in writing to their entire council staff following an investigation into sexist behaviour which included telling a woman she had 'good breeding hips' and offering to perform a pagan ritual.

John Fielding, one of the councillors at Tory-controlled Stratford-on-Avon District Council, has had the Conservative whip removed following the official investigation, LocalGov has learned.

The other councillor, Peter Barnes, is an independent.

They were found to have breached the code of conduct on respect and to have brought the role of councillor into disrepute.

The investigation was launched following a Facebook post by then executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon, who has since left, recounting some of her experiences and complaining of the 'sexist culture' at the council.

It is understood she thought the post was private but it came to the attention of the council which decided to take action.

The official report on Cllr Barnes said he had failed to treat others with respect, based on 'evidence of a pattern and practice of long-standing, offensive and upsetting behaviour, particularly to female officers, that stretches back some years.'

He told a colleague that if she wanted 'fertility support' he would perform a pagan ritual for her, and said she had 'good breeding hips'.

He blamed his age and said he had taken 'the wrong tablets' but these excuses were not accepted.

Cllr Fielding had shown 'a pattern of often unacceptable behaviour towards some women officers' which included stroking a woman's neck.

All staff and councillors were contacted to invite those with similar concerns to come forward to help with the investigations.

A total of eight members of staff came forward and were interviewed as part of the investigation.

Two other councillors were cleared of any wrongdoing, while complaints against a fifth councillor are still being investigated. A sixth person complained against was found not to have been a member of the council.

The authority's monitoring officer has asked the external investigator to produce a further report in relation to the wider culture at the council.

Photo: Elliott Brown/flickr

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