Investigation into councillors' SEND comments to cost taxpayers up to £25,000 - The Rugby Observer

Investigation into councillors' SEND comments to cost taxpayers up to £25,000

Rugby Editorial 1st Mar, 2024   0

THE INVESTIGATION into three councillors who made ‘offensive and ignorant’ comments about children with special needs could cost taxpayers up to £25,000.

Warwickshire County Council says the costs of the investigation into Councillors Brian Hammersley, Jeff Morgan and Clare Golby are ‘currently being finalised’ – but expects them to be £20,000-£25,000.

Last week, the council appointed a lawyer to conduct the investigation on behalf of its Monitoring Officer due to ‘the significant number and nature of complaints received’.

At a meeting of the WCC Children’s and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January, Coun Hammersley suggested a return to the days of institutionalisation for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Coun Morgan suggested some children with ADHD were badly behaved and needed ‘strict correction’.

Coun Golby suggested some SEND cases might be due to bad parenting.

The Conservative councillors have since apologised for the comments, and have been dismissed from the committee by the council’s Tory leader Coun Izzi Seccombe.

But a Warwickshire Labour MP has asked why the Conservative whip has not been removed from the three councillors.

Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington, said Coun Seccombe did not have to wait for the investigation to conclude.

He said: “Coun Seccombe needs to show strong leadership and make it clear that these were not the views of her administration.”

He also criticised the decision to pay a third party to find out whether the councillors’ comments broke WCC’s own Code of Conduct.

“At a time of council tax rises and cuts to vital services, it’s a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money,” he added.

“It’s obvious what’s been said is outrageous and utterly disrespectful to families of SEND children. The right thing to do would be to remove the Conservative whip immediately.”

Coun Seccombe said: “The councillors have been replaced on the committee and there is an official complaint being investigated through the council’s Monitoring Officer.”

The investigation is due to take around 12 weeks.

WCC has received hundreds of complaints about the councillors, and over 30,000 have signed a petition calling for them to have the party whip removed.

The council has acknowledged their comments caused ‘significant offence, distress and upset’.

A spokesperson for the SEND Crisis Warwickshire campaign group said the councillors’ comments were ‘discriminatory and stigmatising’, adding that government cuts, austerity measures and the cost-of-living crisis had left councils ‘hamstrung’ in addressing SEND needs.


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