Liberal Democrats on Teignbridge District Council faced a raging attack by other councillors, including claims the leader was “corrupt” and members had “no f***ing clue” about the history and principles of their own party.
Philip Churm www.devonlive.com
It followed an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday, February 14, to debate the findings of a damning report by the local government watchdog.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said an investigation by TDC into the conduct of South Devon Alliance Group leader Cllr Richard Daws was flawed and “found fault with a number of aspects of the council’s investigation.”
Cllr Daws, who represents Ambrook, had been accused of acting contrary to the council’s code of conduct following remarks he made on social media in 2020.
The Ombudsman found fault in the investigation that followed because it was not triggered by a formal written complaint, as the law demands. The Ombudsman said the council should now apologise to Cllr Daws.
At the meeting, tempers flared and angry comments were made about the leadership. South Devon Alliance councillor for Haytor, Adrian Patch, spoke in support of his colleagues.
“This council has for so long been digging a hole for itself in the gutter and has finally leapt into the sewers where it is floundering in its own excrement,” he said.
After several interruptions Cllr Patch was ordered not to make any further comments in the debate.
Council leader and Lib Dem member for Kenton & Starcross, Alan Connett, said he accepted the findings of the report and he had apologised to Cllr Daws last month.
He also recommended that, in addition to him apologising to Cllr Daws personally, the managing director of the council should also apologise within seven working days.
Cllr Connett suggested “the council’s head of legal services writes to the secretary of state and the Local Government Association seeking further clarity” about the role of the Ombudsman and the duty of councils to protect employees.
Meanwhile, Cllr Daws, sporting a Che Guevara lapel badge, asked for his colleague, Liam Mullone – referred to in the report as “Councillor X” – to receive an apology too. He said the councillor for College ward had faced the same treatment as him.
“What my case demonstrates very clearly is that there are systemic failings within the standards procedures at this council,” he said. “None more clearly outlined than those of the injustice that was dealt out to ‘Cllr X’ – Councillor Liam Malone – who was tied up with me in an investigation.”
Councillors voted against an amendment to apologise directly to Cllr Mullone. Later, Cllr Mullone also launched a furious attack on the Lib Dems, who he suggested had dismissed the significance of the Ombudsman’s report.
“And I’ve seen all of you Lib Dems at the front nodding and going, ‘Yeah, it wasn’t really anything. Yeah, let’s ringfence it. Let’s pretend it’s just some administrative problem,’” he argued.
“I wish all the Lib Dems would go away and read Locke and John Stuart Mill and try and remember what your party is meant to be about because you’ve got no f***ing clue.”
He also hit out at chair of the council and Lib Dem councillor for Kenn Valley, Charles Nuttall, arguing he should not have been at the meeting.
“You were on the standards committee,” he shouted. And pointing to the monitoring officer, Paul Woodhead, he said: “You have been corrupt since the day you started.” Referring to Cllr Nuttall he added: “You should not be here.”
The council voted in favour of a motion to accept the findings of the report, apologise to Cllr Daws and for the standards committee to review its processes.