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Gay row councillor facing inquiry
Published 17/03/14



CONTROVERSIAL comments made by a Henley town councillor blaming the recent storms and floods on the legalisation of gay marriage are to be investigated.

David Silvester, 73, was widely condemned after originally making the remarks in a letter published by the Henley Standard in January.

In his letter, he accused Prime Minister David Cameron of acting “arrogantly against the Gospel” and causing the nation to be “beset by serious storms and floods” by passing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

On Monday South Oxfordshire District Council confirmed an inquiry would be held into complaints made against him.

Its statement said: “The council will send the case for investigation. An investigation involves appointment of an independent investigator, who will develop an investigation plan and timetable. We would expect the investigation to take a minimum of one month and to start in a couple of weeks.


“The investigator will judge the case against precedents to consider whether the code of conduct applies in this case. If the code of conduct is deemed to have applied, the investigation will judge whether the councillor breached the code of conduct.”

Cllr Silvester’s comments resulted in a small protest being held outside the town hall in January and an online petition with more than 25,000 signatures has called for his resignation.

Sarah Butcher, 40, of Belle Vue Road, Henley who organised the protest, said: “I think it’s a positive thing. I welcome the news. I think it’s very difficult, Cllr Silvester is in his latter years, he’s done a lot of good for the town but his comments hurt a lot of people and made the people of Henley feel really uncomfortable and it really makes a laughing stock of Henley that he’s still in his position.”

Mrs Butcher, an account director who is married with two children, said she didn’t want to “vilify” Cllr Silvester adding: “I feel he is entitled to his own views, but not in public office.”

Cllr Silvester, who is a member of Henley Baptist Church and married with children, was also been criticised in national newspapers and on radio and television.

His home in Luker Avenue, Henley was targeted by vandals who threw eggs at the property and hung a gay pride banner on the wall.

He was suspended from the UK Independence Party to whom he defected from the Conservatives over the same issue in 2013, and later expelled from the party. He will now stand as an independent councillor until next year’s council elections.

He initially refused to apologise but last month at an extraordinary council meeting called to discuss his comments he did apologise for upsetting the gay community but still refused to resign over the matter.

Cllr Silvester refused to comment when contacted by the Henley Standard on Tuesday but told the paper in January he had received 70 messages of support, mostly from fellow Christians and a number of them UKIP voters.

Readers had written to the paper in protest at his comments, although some had also defended him personally, saying he was a kind man.

Mike Kennedy, clerk at Henley Town Council, said it was unaware that the case had been sent for investigation but refused to comment further.

The town council has no powers to take any disciplinary action but it had passed 12 complaints on to the district council’s monitoring officer, who then decided that he should be investigated.

The retired Shell worker also worked as a sports groundsman, when he was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Groundsmanship, and then as a professional tennis and squash coach. He formed the Henley School of Tennis and Squash.

He was a committee member of the Reading Torch Trust for the Blind, chairman of the Henley Toy Library and a volunteer for 13 years at the Oxfam shops in Henley.

At the Baptist church, he has volunteered for the Christians Against Poverty team running courses to help people learn how to budget, spend and save and has served on the Christian Aid Committee.

Cllr Silvester was elected in the south ward of the town council in 2011 with 762 votes. He lost his fight for the Henley South ward on South Oxfordshire District Council at both a 2010 by-election and the local elections the following year.



Published 17/03/14

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