Mayor says sorry for using offensive word
5:30am Friday 11th April 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
THE Mayor of Swindon Nick Martin has apologised for using an offensive term about disabled people and also said he is considering standing down.
A formal complaint was made last year after Councillor Martin (Con, Shaw) said: “They aren’t still letting those mongols have sex with each other are they?”
On Wednesday night an assessment panel agreed with the report of an independent investigator and found the mayor had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct.
He was ordered to issue an unreserved apology as well as attend a training course. After hearing the decision Coun Martin said he accepted the outcome.
“I have apologised for using a word I shouldn’t have,” he said.
“I will publicly apologise as I have been asked to and I will continue to apologise. I don’t know how many more times I can say it but I will continue to do so.
“I used a word I shouldn’t have and I am sorry. It was a word used when I was growing up but I accept it was wrong. There are only so many ways I can re-word an apology but I will do so.”
Coun Martin, who has just over a month of his tenure to run, has also said he is considering his position as mayor but not over any comments he has made.
Instead, Coun Martin is thinking of standing down as mayor so he can help with campaigning in the upcoming local elections.
He said: “As mayor I have met some wonderful people and had fantastic support from people. However, I am not allowed to campaign on behalf of a party which is something I enjoy.
“The council’s Director of Law has said I can’t so it is something I have to think about.
“I am considering my future as a mayor but if I do stand down it will be to campaign rather than over another issue.”
The offending comment has attracted condemnation from senior MPs, including Eric Pickles and Harriet Harman in recent months, and in December he survived a vote of no-confidence.
Labour Group leader Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said while the apology is a positive move it is not enough.
He said: “I welcome the fact that the mayor has finally acknowledged he used this offensive language and that he has publicly apologised. However, it is very disappointing that the mayor originally denied using these words which has led to an investigation taking place at a cost of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer.
“The fact that this word was used when the mayor grew up is irrelevant, the fact is that using this word is offensive to people with learning disabilities and doesn’t befit the language that should be used by the mayor of this town.
“With the Standards Panel and investigator now finding the mayor to have used this offensive word, it is now time for the mayor to resign and stand down.”
The mayor has also been asked to apologise to Coun Junab Ali (Lab, Central) after not allowing him into the Mayor’s Chamber during a formal visit and in 2012 he was asked to write a letter of apology to a council officer after offending her.
The group Better Swindon, which is pushing for the council to be made more accountable, said the time has come for Coun Martin to step down as mayor. Spokeswoman Carole Bent said: “It seems that repeating apologies makes little difference to Coun Martin’s attitude or approach. Our town deserves better.”
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