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Opposition 'disappointed' with Slough council response to internal bullying

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Opposition councillors hit out at the Labour administration after a motion to tackle bullying was amended during a full council meeting last night.

The motion was put forward by former Labour councillor Madhuri Bedi (Ind, Foxborough) and urged the council to acknowledge that ‘women in politics have been disproportionately impacted by social media abuse in recent years’ and that labelling female politicians as ‘traitors’ is inflammatory language.

It followed a recent incident where Cllr Bedi was described by leader of the council, Cllr James Swindlehurst, as a 'traitor' for choosing to leave Labour and become an independent.

Also included in the motion was a resolution to 'take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying or intimidation within the council' and review the councillors code of conduct.

However, an amendment to this motion was put forward by Cllr Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows) which removed both the point about labelling female politicians as traitors, and the reference to a 'zero tolerance' approach.

Opposition councillors objected strongly to this latter amendment, saying that taking out the ‘zero tolerance’ aspect made the motion weaker.

“By putting forward this amendment, what residents see is that councillors want some kind of bullying,” said Cllr Anna Wright (Con, Haymill and Lynch Hill).

Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con, Haymill and Lynch Hill) raised an issue with the amendment’s change of wording to ‘reaffirm its commitment’ to review the councillor code of conduct.

“It’s very clear that there is no commitment,” he said.

Despite this, the amendments were voted for in a clear majority, to the dismay of the opposition.

“What the Labour council has just voted for is against any morals,” said Cllr Wright. “This council is committed to treating bullying as a normal way of life.”

“The disappointment is huge, almost to the point of wanting to leave this meeting right now,” said Cllr Strutton.

“This motion was an attempt to set the council in the right path. I hoped this would send a clear message that we don’t condone bullying of any kind,” said Cllr Bedi.

During a named vote on this motion, Cllr Wright attempted to speak other than to give her vote on repeated occasions, causing the chair, Mayor Preston Brooker (Lab, Langley Kedermister), to ask if the council would file a motion that Cllr Wright ‘not be heard’ again for the remainder of the meeting.

This was one of several times that Cllr Brooker told councillors not to interrupt, speak over the top of the chair, make speeches out of turn, or raise points of order for objections that did not relate to meeting procedures.

Nonetheless, both opposition and Labour councillors praised Cllr Brooker’s fairness in meetings and thanked him for his service, to mark his retirement from mayorship.

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