Devon councillors abandon cruise ships for homeless idea

Councillors in Devon have rejected a proposal to use cruise liners as temporary accommodation for refugees and homeless people.

www.bbc.co.uk

Several Torridge district councillors questioned the practicality of the idea.

A report said cruise ships could become unstable in shallow water, so dredging would be needed and a quay wall reinforcing.

The council’s Community and Resources Committee voted against the proposal.

Labour group leader Cllr David Brenton brought the suggestion to the council’s attention in December.

He cited the district’s desperation to find a home, even if only temporarily, for those in dire need, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

‘Step too far’

A report by council officers said cruise ships could become unstable in shallow water, so dredging would be needed to enable vessels to moor, and the quay wall at Appledore’s Middle Dock would need reinforcing.

Mr Brenton told the committee he had no intention of using big ships in the area, just vessels for up to 100 people.

But independent Councillor Claire Hodson said: “We need to focus on what we’re doing.

“We do not need to go chasing what might be. We have plans in progress to add to our housing supply.”

She added: “I commend Cllr Brenton for coming up with an idea, but we are a small authority.”

Conservative Councillor Simon Newton said it was a “step too far”.

“It also risks complicating a major project that we’ve now just got lined up funding-wise, and I don’t think we should be doing anything to try to complicate what is going to be a major project,” he said.

Mr Brenton was the only one at the meeting who voted against the decision to drop his idea, with eight councillors in favour of abandoning the ship.

Councils freeze levelling up projects as soaring costs exceed grants

 “As a result of the Tories crashing the economy and pushing UK inflation to nearly the highest rate in the G7, vital projects have been delayed and now many face being downsized or scrapped altogether.

“This is symptomatic of a broken system where communities are forced to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall for small pots of money with strings attached. It leaves them especially exposed to economic shocks – not least those brought on by Tory governments.” – Lisa Nandy, The shadow levelling up secretary.

But first win the “Beauty Contest” – Owl

Jessica Elgot www.theguardian.com

Councils are being forced to freeze levelling up projects or find millions from their own squeezed budgets to complete works because of soaring costs which have exceeded government grants.

At least £500m has been lost from projects funded by different government levelling up schemes due to inflation and rising costs, the Guardian can reveal. The true losses are likely to be even higher because for some funds the government will pay out on the delivery phase, which could be several years later.

The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, will address the Convention for the North on Wednesday amid criticism of the latest round of levelling up funding from some MPs, including anger that London was getting more than Yorkshire and north-east England. The government has argued that per capita, the north and the Midlands have benefited more.

However, the number of projects funded by Whitehall-allocated schemes are now under threat because of the soaring costs – which have also meant councils taking on additional risk.

New leisure buildings, high street regeneration, museums and public spaces have been hit by rising costs, including in Calderdale, Preston and Greenock.

Analysis of data from the House of Commons Library shows that, based on the latest projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) at the time of the autumn statement, £576m has been lost from different levelling up funds because of inflation.

The analysis of the overall real-terms loss was done by Labour, which found there was about £137m lost from the levelling up fund from round one, £196m from the UK shared prosperity fund, £172m from the towns fund, £60m from the future high streets fund and £9m from the community renewal fund.

The analysis looked at inflation projections taken from the OBR’s autumn statement analysis, as well as looking at the real-terms value of the levelling up fund from the first round of awards based on inflation in the construction industry, given those projects are overwhelmingly infrastructure-based.

In Halifax, a new swimming pool and leisure centre are on hold for at least a year because of rising costs. Calderdale council received £12.2m for the project in October 2021 but costs could rise by a further £4m according to local reports.

Halifax’s Labour MP Holly Lynch said inflation was having a chilling effect on the first round of projects. “Too many of its first-round projects have had to be paused or shelved because of spiralling costs,” she said.

“The government wants the credit for these projects yet the economic landscape they have created is making them impossible to deliver.”

The council said the project was unsustainable in its current form because of multiple budget pressures after years of austerity and the impact of the pandemic. It said it forecast that it would need to make tens of millions of pounds more in budget savings until 2026 because of inflation.

Analysis has also been done by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which found £1 in every £13 could be lost to inflation if the government did not act to protect investment.

Jack Shaw, a senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “Projected spend has consistently fallen short, meaning the true cost of inflation is likely much higher, and further delays will only increase the pain facing local authorities as the impact of inflation accumulates.”

In many cases, projects are going ahead but will need increased funding from local councils, which are already under budget strain. In Preston, the council has been hit by spiralling costs for its town centre redevelopment, for which it received more than £20m in 2019.

Some of the related projects now had “significant challenges with cost inflation”, said Preston city council’s chief executive, Adrian Phillips. In one scheme, the Grade II-listed Amounderness House regeneration, the council has had to use borrowing to plug the funding gap because otherwise it would not be able to proceed.

In another scheme backed by the towns fund, the council has had to significantly reduce the work and go back to the government to seek consent.

“The costs were so high and we had no flexibility so we are just reducing the area we can benefit,” Phillips said. The council has also had to find more than £1m extra for the refurbishment of the Harris museum, where scaffolding costs alone have risen to more than £1m, meaning potential delays to other capital projects.

Phillips is among many local authority leaders who have criticised the approach of bidding for central funding posts. “Funding from government is always welcome but you have to enter numerous competitive bidding rounds, they are time-consuming and costly for very limited funds,” he said.

“There are also ludicrous delivery timescales, set nominally by the Treasury, that are not optimal for bringing in partnerships. If it has to be spent by March 2025, for a major capital programme [that] is not flexible enough.”

Preston was also successful in the latest round of levelling up funding bids, gaining £20m to regenerate parks. “That is fraught with challenge in terms of cost inflation,” he said.

“The government have made clear you cannot go back for more. At times you do have to downscale and then go back for consent. It’s an enormously stressful process and the worst thing is when you promise something and are not able to deliver all of it.”

In other areas, there have been warnings from those who won funding in the latest round that they are already facing budget pressures. Councillors in Greenock, Inverclyde, said their costs had already soared since making their successful bid.

The council was awarded £20m to demolish and reroute the A78 dual carriageway to transform Greenock town centre, including new public squares and green spaces. But the council has said it is likely to need another £2m to deliver everything.

The Inverclyde council leader, Stephen McCabe, from Scottish Labour, told the Greenock Telegraph he was delighted with the bid’s success, but added: “Inflation will already have eaten away at the funding amount we bid for, so our project team will need to assess how this might impact on the scope of the project and whether additional funding will be needed to deliver the full plan as envisaged.”

Labour has said it would end the competitive bidding process by radically increasing devolved powers – and said the Conservatives were to blame for soaring inflation.

The shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, said: “As a result of the Tories crashing the economy and pushing UK inflation to nearly the highest rate in the G7, vital projects have been delayed and now many face being downsized or scrapped altogether.

“This is symptomatic of a broken system where communities are forced to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall for small pots of money with strings attached. It leaves them especially exposed to economic shocks – not least those brought on by Tory governments.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Levelling Up and Communities said: “We are closely monitoring the impact of inflation on projects and working closely with councils and delivery partners to ensure public services are protected and levelling up projects delivered.”

The department said it had set up a project adjustment process to work on the scope and phase of projects to mitigate delivery problems. It said £65m of support was being made available to successful applicants in the form of commercial advisers, grants to buy local support, and a training package.

Integrity and transparency Tory style

Panel approving Richard S harp as BBC chair included Tory party donor

The four-strong advisory assessment panel, which ultimately decided that five of the 23 applicants were fit for the job, was formed on the basis of three members being considered independent.

Now read on, looks all very chummy to Owl.

Mark Sweney www.theguardian.com 

The government-appointed panel that approved Richard Sharp as a prime candidate for the role of BBC chair included a Conservative party donor and prospective MP, as well as the wife of the former chair of the Spectator who worked with Boris Johnson when he edited that political magazine.

As Sharp faces multiple investigations, amid allegations he helped Johnson secure a loan of up to £800,000 weeks before he was recommended for the job by the latter, the potential conflicts of interest among panel members responsible for interviewing and recommending candidates for the job have come under scrutiny.

The four-strong advisory assessment panel, which ultimately decided that five of the 23 applicants were fit for the job, was formed on the basis of three members being considered independent.

The selection panel was made up of Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who oversaw the short-listing process before the final decision made by Johnson.

The independent directors included Catherine Baxendale, a former Tesco executive, who was shortlisted to be a Tory parliamentary candidate in 2017, and who gave £50,000 to the party when David Cameron was prime minister.

The panel also included Blondel Cluff, wife of Algy Cluff, the North Sea oil tycoon, who owned the Spectator from 1980 until 1985. Cluff remained as chairman until the end of 2004 working with five editors – including Charles Moore, the government’s first choice for BBC chair – and Johnson.

Blondel Cluff, who two years ago was the beneficiary of the government’s public selection process becoming chair of the National Lottery community fund, has previously lavished praise on the “optimism and drive” that made Johnson’s leadership “inspirational and unifying”.

The fourth member of the panel was the senior independent director Sir William Fittall, who spent almost 30 years in the civil service before retiring in 2002. He died last March.

The process for selecting “appointable” candidates, which included a presentation, broadcast interview scenario test and interview, had resulted in action by the public appointments watchdog concerned that ministers were breaching a strict code on political neutrality and independence.

In October 2020, Peter Riddell, the former commissioner for public appointments, tweeted that he had to push for panelists to be changed over concerns about ministers appointing people who were not independent of the Tory party, or who were “allies”. While the final appointment is ultimately made by cabinet ministers and the prime minister, Riddell said that ministers were attempting to “tilt the process” from the outset.

The move to replace panelists came amid growing concern that the government was seeking to “rebalance” the boards of public bodies, particularly in the arts, heritage and broadcasting sectors, by appointing allies and blocking critics, in part to help it fight “culture wars”.

The government also pursued a protracted and ultimately unsuccessful process to try to install Paul Dacre, former editor of the Daily Mail, as chair of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which has oversight of the BBC.

Dacre flunked his interview with the selection panel, which determined he was “unappointable”, and he pulled out after ministers were criticised for re-running the process to give him a second chance.

In the case of Sharp, Riddell wrote a letter to the chair of the culture select committee of MPs in early 2021 following the announcement of Sharp as the government’s preferred candidate for BBC chair.

The select committee, which publicly interviews preferred candidates ahead of an official appointment by ministers, comments on the “cosiness in the upper echelons of public appointments” and Sharp’s ties with Rishi Sunak and Johnson.

In the letter to the committee, Riddell said that his assessment was that the selection panel had run a “well conducted and thorough process” and that the “candidates’ potential conflicts of interest were fully explored”.

On Monday Riddell said that it was right that his successor, William Shawcross, whose daughter is Sunak’s deputy chief of staff, was investigating Sharp’s recruitment process since the panel was not aware of the role he played in helping Johnson seek to secure a loan.

In written evidence provided by Sharp to the committee ahead of the interview he did not raise his involvement with Johnson’s loan when responding to the question: “Do you currently or potentially have any business, financial or other non-pecuniary interests or commitments, that might give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest if you are appointed?”

Kevin Brennan, a member of the DCMS select committee, said in the Commons on Monday: “Helping to raise an £800,000 loan for the person ultimately responsible for your appointment should have been declared in response to that question.”

Sharp has agreed to appear before the committee on 7 February to face questions regarding the Johnson scandal.

[Richard Sharp has told the BBC that he is confident that the investigation by William Shawcross, public appointments commissioner, will find that was appointed on merit. According to the Times he has privately hired the crisis communication specialist Garfield Advisory to help him respond to scrutiny. – Owl]

A party of the rich, for the rich

The Guardian view on Tory millionaires: a party of the rich, for the rich

Editorial www.theguardian.com 

Written in an earlier time about misgivings over the accumulation of power and money, the words of F Scott Fitzgerald are apposite today. “They were careless people,” laments the narrator of his classic novel The Great Gatsby. “They smashed up things … and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.” The Tory party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi, paid, it appears, about £5m in penalties and outstanding taxes to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Mr Zahawi says his mistakes were “careless”. But how could the Conservatives ever have allowed somebody, as they did with Mr Zahawi, to become chancellor when he was in dispute with the tax authority, for which the chancellor is responsible? It is a conflict of interest that no one could miss – unless, perhaps, they too were being careless.

We all can be remiss. But not to the extent that we forget, apparently, to report an estimated £27m to HMRC. Rishi Sunak appointed Mr Zahawi to be Tory party chair and gave him a seat at his cabinet table. The prime minister claims not to have been apprised of the facts before defending Mr Zahawi at the dispatch box last week, or when he gave him his current job. A stronger prime minister would have done the right thing and sacked Mr Zahawi. Mr Sunak has referred the matter to his ethics adviser. But the occupant of No 10 does not need a report to tell him who should be in his cabinet. Mr Sunak is a weak prime minister: he has to go in to bat for colleagues for fear of them refusing to do the same for him. He risks the government losing trust in him.

Mr Zahawi was only chancellor for two months. But it speaks volumes about his character that he took the job. It would have been sloppy for Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, not to have known about Mr Zahawi’s tax problem before his promotion. That might explain why a story surfaced this weekend that claimed Mr Zahawi was denied a knighthood after the Cabinet Office contacted HMRC “as part of the normal due diligence”. Mr Case would also have been negligent not to have raised the prospective chancellor’s tax conflict with Boris Johnson, the then prime minister. It may be too much to ask for Mr Johnson, a serial liar, to find anything improper in the arrangement. But he should have vetoed Mr Zahawi for the role.

Reputations rarely survive contact with Mr Johnson. He thinks it’s fine for the current BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, to have helped arrange a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000 for himself weeks before recommending him for the role. Neither man reported this arrangement, which they should have. Mr Sharp was privy to politically damaging information. The public perception of the BBC’s impartiality and independence has been harmed by its chair’s lack of judgment. Auntie’s board will look at the matter, and the public appointments commissioner will investigate Mr Sharp’s appointment after being urged to intervene by Labour’s Lucy Powell. However, don’t hold your breath. A wealthy insider, Mr Sharp has made his services too useful to be dispensed with easily.

These goings-on offer a parable about the corrupting role of inequality in society, a central theme of Fitzgerald’s book. What has made Britain ungovernable is not strikes and inflation but factional infighting within the Conservatives – which looks like a party of the rich, for the rich. Mr Sunak’s government seems too riven by disputes and too weak to implement big reforms. The impotence of Mr Sunak has replaced the chaos of Mr Johnson. With the Tories in charge, Britain has become a country with a government that cannot do anything of importance.

‘Huge concerns’ in Whitehall about Government’s behaviour during Zahawi row, insiders say

The impartiality and integrity of the Civil Service is being put at risk due to the rows involving Nadhim Zahawi and Boris Johnson’s financial arrangements, insiders have told i.

[“The many lives of UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case” (www.politico.eu),  paints a picture of a highly-politicized player working at the center of the Whitehall machine — a civil servant who operates more as ministerial courtier than the traditional, faceless mandarin. As an ex-Johnson aide put it: “This is a man who would literally sell his mother to survive.”] – Owl

Jane Merrick inews.co.uk

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Whitehall’s propriety and ethics team have been dragged into both affairs, because civil servants offered advice on the arrangements.

Whitehall insiders said as full official advice to ministers – with qualifications – cannot be made public, disclosures about Mr Johnson and Mr Zahawi’s financial affairs being approved is undermining the integrity of the Civil Service.

Caroline Slocock, a former private secretary to Margaret Thatcher when she was PM, said the entire process of upholding standards in public life needs to be made independent to prevent civil servants from being dragged into ministerial scandals.

In the case of Tory chairman Mr Zahawi, it has been reported that the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team raised the issue of his tax affairs directly with Mr Johnson before he was appointed Chancellor.

Mr Zahawi’s allies have insisted he flagged it with the ethics unit before the appointment.

Mr Case has been dragged into the row over Mr Johnson’s £800,000 loan from a Canadian millionaire when he was prime minister because the Cabinet Secretary was introduced to the businessman, Sam Blyth, by the BBC chairman Richard Sharp.

A Whitehall insider said there were “huge concerns about the integrity and impartiality of the civil service being undermined” under the current leadership.

They added: “Under the ministerial code there is a requirement for ministers to protect the impartiality and integrity of the Civil Service and not to put the Civil Service in a position where impartiality is threatened.

“Whether it is sustainable that civil servants can continue to advise ministers and prime ministers on issues which go to the heart of integrity if the prime minister and ministers are going to break that, and civil servants cannot do anything about it other than resign, that is a valid question.”

Ms Slocock, who is director of the Civil Exchange, told i: “I think that in the light of the Johnson premiership and recent scandals, greater independence and oversight is required of the system that enforces standards in public life.

“Ultimately, civil servants work for the Government of the day and the PM sets the tone. Civil servants advise, they don’t decide.

“As the Priti Patel affair demonstrated, it is the PM not the ethics adviser who decides whether or not the Ministerial Code is broken. Press reports suggest that the propriety and ethics team did raise a red flag on the Zahawi appointment as Chancellor, which was ignored.

“The Committee on Standards on Public Life recently proposed that the Code and adviser should be more independent, and I agree with them, and there is also a case for the ethics team being placed at arm’s length from Government.”

Ms Slocock joined calls from MPs for the register of ministerial interests, which has not been published since last May, to be updated and to include offshore trusts held by the ministers themselves and family members, and a record of all gifts and loans.

She added: “I don’t really understand why Simon Case was involved in sorting out the PM’s personal finances, which is suggested by Richard Sharp’s account of events, and hope that he will be questioned about that by Parliament.”

Sir Peter Ridell, the former Commissioner for Public Appointments, said Mr Case should have told the advisory panel overseeing the BBC chairman appointment what he knew about Mr Sharp’s connection with Mr Johnson.

More from Conservatives

Sir Peter, who was commissioner when Mr Sharp was appointed BBC chairman, told Times Radio: “That’s possibly one of the issues which will be examined, because I’m absolutely certain that his colleague who chaired the panel did not know.

“Yes, I think probably he should have made it aware to his colleague who’s chairing the panel.

“I think perception is really important. And yes, he should have said, ‘Look, I was involved at an earlier stage with an issue involving the prime minister… But I’m no longer involved’, and that would have acted as reassurance, so you’d recognise there was a potential conflict.

“Whether there was – which he denies – is a matter for the investigation to establish. But I think it would have been in everyone’s interest that there’d been much greater transparency early on.”

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “No wonder Conservative sleaze has taken root at the heart of Government. For months, there wasn’t even an ethics adviser. Then, when Rishi Sunak finally appointed one, it turned out the adviser wasn’t even independent at all – the Prime Minister has the power to block his investigations.

“Rishi Sunak promised to govern with integrity, but so far it’s been the very opposite. If he really wanted to restore standards in public life, the least he could do is make the ethics adviser truly independent, as well as handing over the appointment process to Parliament.”

Last minute advice for those finalising their January tax return – be careful!

(Also applies to Tory Cabinet members, especially Chancellors of the Exchequer.)

“Careless “and  “Carelessness” as explained in HMRC internal manual:

“Careless” means a failure to take reasonable care in relation to your tax affairs.

Carelessness can be likened to the longstanding concept in general law of “negligence”.

www.gov.uk

Zero tolerance: Ethical values must be integral to government and other public bodies, says standards watchdog

The Committee on Standards in Public Life, with great prescience, issued on Tuesday its review on standards entitled: “Leading in Practice” . –  Owl recommends it to EDDC’s CEO, Mark Williams,

“The Seven Principles of Public Life (the Principles) apply to all public office-holders and those delivering public services. They are the bedrock that underpins and gives meaning to the rules that govern public office, and they represent a common understanding of public service. However, the ethical values reflected in the Principles will not become the cultural norm within an organisation without active attention.” [First para of Lord Evan’s Forward]

www.oxfordmail.co.uk 

Strong ethical values must be “woven into every aspect” of the way government bodies and other public organisations operate, the Whitehall standards watchdog has warned.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life said while a “robust ethical culture” should be integral to the way organisations operate, too often it takes a crisis for leaders to act.

In a report highlighting best practice in the public sector, the committee said there should be “zero tolerance” for conduct that falls short of the required standards, with clear consequences when they are not met.

It noted there was no single ethics programme in Whitehall, and that while the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team was able to provide advice, it was a small group and limited in what it could do.

The committee chairman, Lord Evans of Weardale, a former director general of MI5, said establishing a values-driven culture required positive action by the leadership of an organisation and could not be left to chance.

“Doing things in the right way and in the public interest is critical for public confidence in the bodies that operate on the public’s behalf and supports the delivery of public services,” he said

“A robust ethical culture supports effective risk management – if people see thinking about ethical issues as part of their job and feel safe to speak up, this can pick up potential concerns before they escalate.

“Our evidence shows that an ethical culture does not emerge by accident. It requires discussion and action.”

In its report, the committee said the evidence it received underlined the importance of the Nolan principles of public life, established after the cash-for-questions scandal with rocked Sir John Major’s government in the 1990s.

“We heard that zero tolerance of behaviour that does not align with the values of the organisation is essential for embedding good practice. Leaders must be clear that there is a line which, when crossed, results in consequences,” it said.

“Focusing on how to ensure that ethical values are woven into every aspect of how an organisation operates is critical to good leadership. Yet, disappointingly, it often takes a crisis for senior leaders to prioritise action in this area.

“Our strong view is that the ethical health of an organisation cannot be left to chance. Leaders must ensure that the principles of public life are integral to how public sector organisations operate and how the people in them make decisions and treat each other.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the findings should be a “mark of shame” for Mr Sunak.

“Instead of building a strong ethical culture he’s paying lip service to integrity, while preserving the rotten regime of his predecessors with sleaze and scandal running rife on his watch.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government takes propriety and ethics in public life very seriously.

“Within departments, judgments on matters relating to ethics and standards are the responsibility of permanent secretaries, who can draw upon the expertise of the Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics Team.”

Where can I complain about Stagecoach bus services?

Yesterday a correspondent asked Owl:

“Where can I complain about the useless Stagecoach service to Seaton, Devon from Exeter?”

This correspondent is unlikely to be the only one seeking the best way to complain.

The facebook based TEABAG (The Exeter Area Bus Action Group) is doing sterling work holding Stagecoach to account.  Each week they have a special post to report specific services that go wrong that week but also do other posts regarding poor services.

Readers might like to add their experience of complaining about Stagecoach services to this page.

Whoops!

Another female Tory councillor quits amid ‘bullying’ claims

Philip Churm www.plymouthherald.co.uk

Plymouth’s former deputy lord mayor, Cllr Maddi Bridgeman, has resigned from the Conservative Party following an ongoing row with council leader Richard Bingley in which she says she has been “harassed, bullied, and publicly humiliated.” Allegations the local Tory group have denied.

Cllr Bridgeman has served her Moor View constituency as an independent councillor since being suspended from the Tory group in November while an investigation was underway.

However, in a resignation email to the Conservative Party she asked to make a formal complaint against leading Tories adding: “My reasons for my resignation and the formal complaint are that I have been harassed, bullied, and publicly humiliated whilst holding a senior position in public office, all because of my sex, I am a woman.”

The row began last year after former Tory leader Cllr Nick Kelly (Compton) was ousted by Mr Bingley.

Cllr Bingley, who represents Southway, had been criticised for comparing Cllr Bridgeman to Saddam Hussein’s notorious right-hand man Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and referring to her as a “cheerleader.”

Cllr Bridgeman asked for a public apology but says she has never received one.

The comments emerged in a recording, released online, in which Cllr Bingley also makes angry and offensive comments about Tory colleagues, including calling former leader, Cllr Nick Kelly a “weak, two-faced git.”

Cllr Bridgeman said she is devastated by the vitriolic attacks on her, which she describes as sexist and insulting, especially when being compared to the Saddam Hussein’s genocidal right-hand man.

She was suspended from the Tory group just days after an independent inquiry upheld complaints made by her about Cllr Bingley.

The inquiry into Cllr Bingley began last April and concluded that he had breached the code of conduct relating to “courtesy and equality” and “disrepute.” It resulted in a formal letter of reprimand from the monitoring officer.

Cllr Bingley was not punished by the Conservative group he leeds.

Last month, a report by the Conservative association criticised Cllr Bridgeman’s social media activity in which she referred to one councillor as an “inexperienced student.”

The report also condemned her for shortening Cllr Bingley’s first name, “Richard,” to “Dick.”

The Tory councillor for St Budeaux, Pat Patel, said: “In the British modern vernacular, ‘Dick’ means ‘penis’ and Cllr Bridgeman uses this derogatory term on several occasions referencing Cllr Richard Bingley.”

Cllr Bridgeman rejected the claims and highlighted many well-known people with the shortened version of “Richard” including Dick Emery, a 1970s television comedian, Dick Cheney, who was US vice president at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and former Plymouth councillor Dick Mahony.

The Conserative association report says Cllr Bridgeman’s claims of “misogynist and sexist nature are totally inappropriate and amount to unbefitting conduct.”

The Conservative Party group was contacted for a response and a spokesperson said: “We have a policy of not discussing private disciplinary matters.”