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Councillors ask to overturn decision on racist comment

by Richard Greenwood on 16 July, 2020

Senior councillors are seeking a rare review by asking a committee to overturn a decision not to investigate a councillor accused of posting a racist comment on Facebook.

Last week a Standards Sub-Committee made up of just three councillors voted two to one to not investigate Cllr Terry Baines for a comment he made on Facebook about migrants, despite all agreeing the post was inappropriate.

Cllr Baines has written:

“It is time to stop the invasion of Migrants and time to send a lot back”

Now the full Standards Committee will be asked to set aside the decision and look at the matter again, as it is believed the original hearing did not apply the correct interpretation of the rules councillors are held to or follow its own rules. The committee decided the matter was “trivial,” and dismissed the allegation, clearing Cllr Baines of wrong-doing. The review request says the sub-committee made an error in not fully considering an independent report’s recommendations, the full harm the post had caused and because it considered matters irrelevant to the decision. In doing so the request states that the sub-committee reached a decision that should be overturned.

Cllr Douglas McCall, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group said:

“The sub-committee seems to have got this wrong. It seems to have reached a conclusion based on not properly taking into account all the matters it should. I do not think racism is ever a trivial matter, and I think the sub-committee minimising the hurt in the community and to the people that complained, while taking into account irreverent matters means the decision should be reviewed and the facts looked at again properly and within the rules. The formal decision to essentially clear Cllr Baines despite everyone agreeing his comments were wrong seems ludicrous to most people.”

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of the Labour Group said:

“The decision of the sub-committee appears flawed. It took matters into account that it should not have done and does not appear to have given sufficient weight to either the recommendations of an independent review of the allegations nor the harm the comments have done. It is very rare for councillors to be asked to review a decision like this, but I believe this matter is so incredibly important that the full committee should debate if a mistake was made in dismissing the matter without any investigation. I think the sub-committee not only made a bad decision, it made a flawed one.”

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