10:41AM, Friday 06 July 2018
No further action will be taken against a councillor who labelled the Royal Borough’s 2018/19 budget as ‘insane’.
Cllr Geoff Hill (Ind Con, Oldfield) faced a complaint from his Conservative Group counterpart Cllr MJ Saunders (Bisham and Cookham) following comments made at a full council meeting on February 20.
Discussing the council’s finances for the coming year, Cllr Hill said the budget was ‘insanely speculative and a deplorable way to run the Royal Borough’s finances’.
The council’s cabinet member for finance, who has a known bi-polar condition, subsequently lodged a complaint, alleging that Cllr Hill’s words had been ‘unwanted and hostile, offensive malicious and/or insulting’.
Royal Borough monitoring officer Mary Severin said in her decision letter: “Cllr Saunders gives an impression of being able to be very robust in his ability to argue points, he is confident and can be forceful in his ability to argue his corner.
“It is understandable, in light of Cllr Saunders’ ability to argue in this way, that Cllr Hill had forgotten about Cllr Saunders’ condition.”
Legal advice from counsel Katherine Fudakowski added that while Cllr Saunders’ condition could be considered a protected characteristic, he could not convince a court that there was any liability.
Quoting from case law, she added: “It is important not to encourage a culture of hypersensitivity or the imposition of legal liability in respect of every unfortunate phrase.”
Complaints that Cllr Hill had breached the council’s Code of Conduct by ‘bullying or intimidating others’ and failing to promote a high standard of conduct were both dismissed, with a decision letter being issued on Wednesday, June 27.
He told the Advertiser: “To me this complaint felt like an unnecessary and unwarranted attack on my character.
“This episode has been a great distraction from my role of getting business done to support our residents.”
The full decision can be read on the council's website.
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