Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Tory councillor could face conduct enquiry

A HENLEY town councillor could face an investigation into his conduct during a council meeting

A HENLEY town councillor could face an investigation into his conduct during a council meeting.

Dick Fletcher, secretary of Henley Residents' Group, has made a formal complaint about a comment made by Conservative councillor Dylan Thomas at the meeting on June 23.

During a discussion on the joiny Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, HRG councillor Stefan Gawrysiak proposed that a percentage of new housing built in the town should be set aside for people with a "strong local connection".

Cllr Thomas replied: "That sounds a bit racist to me - a bit UKIP."

Ken Arlett, chairman of Henley's UKIP branch, was in the public gallery and interrupted, saying: ?I do not need to hear that, thank you very much."

Mayor Lorraine Hillier asked Cllr Thomas whether he was directing a "rude comment" at Mr Arlett, a former town mayor, who lives in Elizabeth Road.

Cllr Thomas replied: ?I didn't direct that at anyone. I just thought the idea of allocating housing on the basis of people's ethnicity was a bit racist."

The Mayor warned him not to make similar comments in future.

This was followed by another verbal altercation in which Cllr Thomas called Mr Arlett a "little man" and made a hand gesture signifying this.

Mr Fletcher, who witnessed the incident, claims the signal was "obscene" and has complained to South Oxfordshire District Council, which is responsible for monitoring councillors' conduct.

Mr Fletcher, from Mill End, Hambleden, said: "I was embarrassed that the gesture should be made in full view of the public and ladies. His actions diminished the respect deserving of his office and that of his colleagues on the town council.

"Attention was distracted from the serious points which were being made. Having boasted earlier in the meeting of his service with the armed forces in Afghanistan, he brought dishonour to the armed forces."

Councillor Thomas said the district council had notified him of the complaint.

He said: "I have to wonder whether we live in a democracy or not. I am entitled to express an opinion. I wasn't calling anybody racist and if anyone should be offended it should be Councillor Gawrysiak.

"I was as shocked as anyone when Mr Arlett stood up and started shouting and pointing aggressively at me. I accept making a ?little man? sign and I know I shouldn't have done it, but that's all I meant. It certainly wasn't intended to be obscene.

"This is a load of blown-up and politically motivated nonsense."

Mr Arlett said: "Calling HRG councillors and UKIP members racists is not democracy, just political filth.

"If it had been a UKIP councillor speaking that way, everyone would be asking for their resignation and quite rightly so. Perhaps it is time for our ex-army councillor to fall on his sword?"

Cllr Gawrysiak said he had not been proposing discrimination on grounds of race and that a "strong local connection" was a standard requirement in the housing policies of many councils, including South Oxfordshire.

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