Anger at standards rap for Rotherham councillor who raised Christmas carols theory

By Gareth Dennison | 24/09/2019

Anger at standards rap for Rotherham councillor who raised Christmas carols theory
Cllr John Turner

OPPOSITION members accused RMBC of smothering debate after a councillor was reprimanded for repeating a theory about the lack of town centre Christmas carols.

Cllr John Turner asked at a meeting why recordings were no longer played from Rotherham Minster — saying he overheard a shopper state it was to avoid offending immigrants.

He was formally censured after being found to have broken the code of conduct and brought the council into disrepute.

The Brexit party member declined to apologise to the standards board, saying the comment was a view from the public, not his own opinion.

Group leader Cllr Allen Cowles said: “Cllr Turner was recounting a statement he heard made by a lady in a shop.

“He thought the council should be made aware that such comments are made and perhaps might wish to prepare a response.

“Instead he finds himself in front of a standards panel, there is no right of appeal and, I repeat, he was recounting a statement he heard, not stating a view.”

It was at January’s full council meeting that Cllr Turner asked why carols were no longer played in in the run up to Christmas.

He told members: “I was queuing in a shop and the subject came up. A forceful lady explained that the council didn’t want to offend our British immigration department.

“The feeling was that the original British people in Rotherham were now second class citizens.”

Four weeks later a complaint was made, saying the question was racist and offensive. 

The complainant did not wish to be identified.

The case has now been heard by a standards sub-committee, which had no opposition member representation, chaired by Labour’s Cllr Maggi Clark.

Its report said: “The sub-committee found on balance that the subject member breached the code of conduct in that he failed to treat others with respect.

“They found on balance that by making the inappropriate comments the subject member had brought his office of borough council and that of the council into disrepute.”

Cllr Turner maintained that he had done nothing wrong. He said other people in the shop queue had appeared generally sympathetic to the view expressed by the woman, which he then brought to the council.

Cllr Cowles added: “I think it’s unfortunate that this complaint was even brought to standards. 

“In my opinion, the Labour party are back to their previous incarnation now we are free of commissioners.

“If I wish to speak about the rat infestations here in Rotherham, I have to refer to them as brown furry creatures with a long tail, four legs and sharp teeth, or I find myself being investigated for hate crime. What have we come to?”

The absence of Christmas songs was not connected with any political correctness reason after all — it was health and safety.

Concerns about contractors’ access to the Minster meant songs were stopped there in 2004. An attempt to play them from the visitor centre in 2017 met the same fate, the council said.


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