Lawyer appointed to investigate councillors' SEND comments - The Rugby Observer

Lawyer appointed to investigate councillors' SEND comments

Rugby Editorial 28th Feb, 2024 Updated: 28th Feb, 2024   0

A LAWYER has been appointed by Warwickshire County Council to investigate three councillors who made ‘offensive and ignorant’ comments about children with special needs.

The council said its Monitoring Officer decided the matter should be referred for investigation due to ‘the significant number and nature of complaints received’.

Solicitor Claire Ward of Birmingham law firm Anthony Collins will undertake the investigation on behalf of the Monitoring Officer.

At a meeting of the WCC Children’s and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Meeting in January, Coun Brian Hammersley suggested a return to the days of institutionalisation for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Coun Jeff Morgan suggested some children with ADHD were badly behaved and needed ‘strict correction’, and Coun Clare Golby suggested some SEND cases might be due to bad parenting.

The councillors have since apologised for the comments.

Due to the volume of complaints, Ms Ward will ‘engage with a representative sample of complainants’ before deciding if the councillors have breached the Code of Conduct, and if any sanctions should be applied.

Depending on the outcome, WCC could publicly censure the councillors – but cannot dismiss them as they are elected officials.

The council’s Tory leader Coun Izzi Seccombe has the power to suspend or remove them from the Conservative Group. She has already dismissed them from the Children’s and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel.

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 by the Conservative Group.

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

A spokesperson for the SND 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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