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Councillors to apologise following sexism investigation

Complaints by former executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon, sparked the investigation.
Complaints by former executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon, sparked the investigation.

Two Stratford District Councillors have been ordered to make written apologies to all council staff, following an investigation into allegations on sexist behaviour at the authority.

Cllr John Feilding (Red Horse) and Cllr Peter Barnes (Welford), were both found to have breached the council’s code of conduct and brought the role of councillor into disrepute, following an investigation sparked by complaints from former executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon.

Both Cllr Feilding and Cllr Barnes have accepted the findings and agreed to take certain actions to remedy the breach, including a full and unreserved written apology to all staff and undertaking further training on the Code of Conduct in relation to respect and reputation.

As part of the investigation all council staff were also invited to anonymously submit details of any concerns they had about the behaviour of elected members.

The full report into Cllr Feilding’s behaviour said there were complaints that the Councillor had made remarks including sexual innuendo to female staff, invaded the personal space of female staff members, stroked a female officer’s neck and informed a female staff member about a sensitive issue regarding his sexual health.

The report stated that Cllr Fielding had shown a pattern of often unacceptable behaviour.

Complaints against Cllr Barnes concerned using sexist language and sexual innuendo during conversations with female staff and telling a former employee that she had ‘good breeding hips’ and that he would perform a pagan ritual for her if she wanted fertility support.

In mitigation Cllr Feilding told investigators that there had been no previous complaints about his behavior and disputed one complaint that he touched a female staff member.

He said the complaint regarding his sexual health related to an incident which occurred outside of the office.

Cllr Barnes said he had been through a period of ill health and was prescribed the wrong tablets, which had affected his behaviour.

Complaints about two further councillors were investigated but they were cleared of any wrongdoing, while complaints regarding a fifth councillor are still being investigated.

A further complaint was raised by the former employee about the conduct of a sixth councillor at an external event, but that person was not and had never been a member of Stratford-on Avon District Council, so did not form part of the investigation.

The District Council’s Monitoring Officer has also asked the external investigator to produce a further report in relation to the wider culture of the District Council, following the comments in the original Facebook post from the former employee.

This cultural report will be presented to the Audit and Standards Committee on 18 November 2019.

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