Swindon mayor stands down in the nick of time
5:00am Wednesday 16th April 2014 in News
NICK Martin has resigned as Mayor of Swindon.
Coun Martin came under fire after what was seen as his use of derogatory language towards disabled people.
In a meeting last year he asked: “Are we still letting these Mongols have sex with each other?”, prompting a complaint from a fellow councillor.
After a lengthy investigation, Coun Martin (Con, Shaw) was ordered to apologise after being found in breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct, as well as complete a training course.
Speaking to the Adver after the ruling, he apologised for the use of the word ‘Mongol’ but this did not stop a growing number of people calling for him to stand down. The Chief Executive of disability charity Scope also said an apology was simply not enough.
Yesterday, Coun Martin succumbed to the pressure and handed in his resignation letter.
It read: “It is with regret that I submit my resignation as Mayor of the Borough of Swindon with immediate effect.
“Following the accusations against me, I have cooperated with the independent Standards investigation, I have accepted the findings, I have made new apologies and am abiding by the other recommendations from the Standards Assessment Panel.
“However, it is clear that this will not stop the attacks on the Office and person of Mayor. Therefore, I deem it best for the people of Swindon to resign.”
Yesterday, the decision was welcomed but many said it had come too late.
Mark Dempsey, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Swindon North, (Lab, Walcot & Park North) said: “People across Swindon have recoiled in horror when they have read or heard the deeply offensive comments made by Nick Martin. The CEO of Scope, the national disability charity said that these comments show a ‘deep-seated ignorance towards disabled people’.
“In my view these comments were deeply disrespectful and offensive towards people with learning disabilities. That is why I called for Nick Martin to stand down as Mayor. In my view he should have apologised and resigned a long time ago.
“I am disappointed that the Conservatives supported Nick Martin and did not act to remove him. I think they have shown that they are out of touch and it has been extremely damaging to the town’s reputation.”
The resignation brings an end to a process which has lasted almost nine months since the initial complaint. In December he survived a vote of no confidence after Conservative colleagues argued the process of standards needed to take place.
The Leader of Swindon Council, David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “As we said at the Special Council in December, the Conservative Group wanted the Standards Committee to complete its independent investigation. It has now done this, and Coun Martin has accepted its findings and is meeting the three requirements it made of him.
“The Group believes that it was the correct decision by Coun Martin to stand down, following representations to him by Group Members.
“The Conservative Group stands by the Standards process. If Members are found in breach of the Code, we expect them to meet any conditions set out; where Members are exonerated, we consider the matter resolved.
“Anything further on the issue of the Mayoralty is a matter for the individual concerned.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said while it was correct the mayor went, he regretted the whole incident had taken place.
He said: “After the standards process was followed and their conclusions were reached, Coun Martin has accepted the committee’s findings and has now resigned as mayor, which I think was the right thing to do.
“When I think of the very hard work that Nick has put in as a Swindon councillor over the years, I am sad that this has happened.”
His colleague Justin Tomlinson, the North Swindon MP, said: “Following the publication of the Standards Committee report, it is absolutely right and proper that Nick stands down as mayor.
“The use of that language is totally unacceptable for a mayor who collectively represents the whole borough council.”
Reacting to the resignation, Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: “This wasn’t just about political correctness and using the wrong words.
“The mayor insinuated that there is something wrong with disabled people having sex with each other. “Disturbingly, his outdated comments showed a lack of acceptance that disabled people have sex lives, which can be just as fulfilling – or unfulfilling – as anyone else’s.
“The outcry following the mayor’s comments show that the general public don’t condone this kind of deep-seated ignorance towards disabled people.”
Better Swindon, a local campaign group, has been working with the council to improve the standards process and says the example of the mayor should be used to inspire further change.
Chairman Chris Barry said: “We are pleased that Coun Martin has finally stepped down from the role of Mayor. What is now needed is for the council to review its constitution, including its definitions of unacceptable behaviour, to ensure this sort of thing cannot happen again.
“Only then can we all move on from this regrettable episode.”
It is the first time a mayor has had to stand down from the position in living memory. The Deputy Mayor Teresa Page (Lab, Penhill and Upper Stratton) will perform all mayoral duties until formally becoming mayor herself in June.
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