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West Norfolk councillor censured after ‘docks’ remark

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A West Norfolk councillor is facing disciplinary action after it was found he breached the authority’s code of conduct.

Councillor Toby Wing-Pentelow admitted making a remark which has been subject of a complaint, during a council meeting earlier this year.

But Mr Wing-Pentelow said his comment was misunderstood and he has nothing to apologise for.

West Norfolk Council’s standards committee heard on the case at Lynn Town Hall on Thursday.

GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (2744084)
GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (2744084)

Investigation officer Alexa Baker said Labour activist Jo Rust raised an issue of homelessness during public questions and challenged housing portfolio holder Adrian Lawrence to spend a night sleeping rough with her.

At that point, Mr Wing-Pentelow, who represents the Springwood ward, asked: “What, down the docks?”

Mrs Rust then indicated that she wanted to make a formal complaint about the remark, which she subsequently suggested was sexist and a reference to prostitution.

But, in his response to the complaint, Mr Wing-Pentelow, who did not attend the hearing, rejected that allegation. He said: “It is a clear reference to the Purfleet Trust which as you are well aware is based at the docks entrance.”

Chairman Barry Ayres said: “The panel noted there is no dispute in relation to the key facts.

“They also noted councillor Wing-Pentelow’s late and brief explanation by the use of the term ‘Down the docks’ and lack of engagement in the investigation process.

“The panel considered that a reference to going down the docks is a reference to prostitution, which is historically centred around docks and ports such as King’s Lynn.

“The panel did not accept the comment was a genuine question regarding whether to complainant was suggesting that she and councillor Lawrence should sleep rough in or around the Purfleet Trust.

“The panel also noted that councillor Wing-Pentelow did not consider apologising despite being asked whether he was willing to consider this on February 7 by a monitoring officer, but not until two-days prior to this hearing.”

They recommend he apologises to Jo Rust at a full council meeting, and is removed from committee memberships and outside body appointments.

Mr Ayres said: “Councillor Wing-Pentelow will be reported to full council to be censured.”

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