The leader of Melton Borough Council has been accused of misogyny after allegedly sharing “appalling” pictures of “half naked” women.
According to the councillor, many of the pictures included “vile wording”, and even a picture of the Queen using offensive language.
Equalities in motion
The denunciation came after Tory Cllr Alison Freer outlined her new Equalities Motion. It set out to improve support for protected characteristics, including women, and to enrol councillors onto equalities training.
Cllr Cumbers named and shamed Cllr Joe Orson, who leads the council, as “a person who also not denied being dishonest.”
He immediately rebutted the claim, saying “In the past few months I’ve been subject to attack constantly from councillors of this chamber. It’s basically character assassination. I’m not surprised at anything that’s raised. The letters that have been sent to lots of agencies by three councillors in this room have been quite amazing, and quite vindicative. It’s a consistent role.”
The council became rowdy after the two exchanged blows. Many, including the leader of the opposition, were appalled by the statements, and encouraged councillors to go through the appropriate disciplinary channels.
Nonetheless, they continued to exchange blows.
Later, Cllr Orson said “I have evidence of something similar from another councillor.” But he gave few details on who he directs this to.
Deputy leader of the opposition, Cllr Elaine Holmes, said: “As one of the senior councillors of this council, I don’t think we’ve ever heard this sort of thing before. I am sorry tonight that it has happened. I quite agree with Cllrs Freer and Smith, of course I do, but this is not the place or the time to be saying these sorts of things, and I am very disappointed.”
Cllr Freer, who originally proposed the Equalities Motion, said: “I would like to bring it back to the motion in hand. And remove all the negativity around it. A motion like this is supposed to be positive.”
The mayor, who was chairing the debate, quickly put an end to the spate of words. “Otherwise, we’ll just go round in circles,” he said.
There’s precedent in Melton Mowbray
The debacle follows an investigation into the former deputy leader of Melton Borough Council, who was forced to step down after allegedly telling an audience he wanted all the women to stand up so he could look at them.
Cllr Leigh Higgins, who was presenting the Best of Melton Awards in September, was suspended from the Conservative party after the event. He now sits as an independent.
At the same council meeting, the mayor tried to introduce a statement from Councillor Higgins regarding the on-going investigation into his comments. One councillor called it “illegal” as there were concerns it would prejudice the outcome of the investigation.
Many members left the chamber in protest.
The tussle went on for a good 15-20 minutes before the statement – which Higgins read out himself – was allowed. In his speech, he defended his comments and implied they had been taken out of context.
The mayor then brought the meeting to an end without allowing any other councillors to respond.