Peterborough councillor fails to apologise after being sanctioned for 'fascist comment'
Peterborough city councillor Darren Fower could face sanctions after repeatedly failing to apologise for saying a fellow councillor had shown “fascist tendencies”.
In March 2018 Cllr Fower, the Labour member for Gunthorpe, had a letter published in the Peterborough Telegraph where he criticised the decision of Cllr John Fox to close the public gallery in the Council Chamber during council meetings.
Cllr Fox, who was Mayor of Peterborough at the time, closed the public gallery on the advice of police and legal officers due to safety concerns.
But Cllr Fower wrote: “We should not be barred, and such fascists’ tendencies need to end now.”
Cllr Fower then improperly used personal information provided in an online petition calling for the re-opening of the public gallery, using those names to generate emails without the signatory’s knowledge or permission.
Cllr Fower had been contacted 37 times in the months following the incidents, and given the opportunity to apologise to Cllr Fox.
However, Cllr Fower, who has represented Gunthorpe at Peterborough City Council since 2004, has refused to offer an apology or even speak on the matter.
Cllr David Seaton, speaking at the meeting of the Full Council, said: “An independent investigator said that Cllr Fower’s behaviour was “reckless” and imposed several sanctions upon him, not the least of which was a directive to give an unreserved apology to Cllr Fox.
“Cllr Fower has breached the council’s Code of Conduct by refusing to accept or even acknowledge the sanctions imposed upon him, while continuing to serve in a public post.”
Cllr Fower had attended the Full Council meeting, but walked out of the room just minutes before the matter was further discussed and did not return.
An angry Cllr Fox said after the meeting: “It’s sad that it has come to this when all that was needed was an apology from Cllr Fower.
“I would like the Government to realise that people in positions of public service, such as councillors, have a duty to be polite and respectful to their constituents and everybody else – and definitely to fellow councillors.
“You can’t go around calling people names and anything you like and expect no repercussions.
“There’s no point in having a Code of Conduct if there are no teeth’ to it, you might as well throw that code away.
“People in public office can’t go around saying anything they like and doing what they want.
“I am still very angry that he used the word ‘fascist’ when I’m an ex-forces veteran; and I think that any veteran out there would feel the same.
“Veterans are not fascists. Policemen are not fascists – it’s utterly disrespectful what he did.
“Still, all he had to do was to come to me and say ‘sorry John, I made a mistake and shouldn’t have done it’ and apologise.
“But he can’t even do that. What else can I say?”
Cllr Fox said: “I understand the Government aims to issue a formal response to the [Independent] Committee’s recommendations in September.
“The council now has an opportunity to write to the Local Government Minister to endorse the committee’s recommendations, in particular regarding the introducing of stronger sanctions for breaches of the Code of Conduct.
“I would urge the l/eader and the chairman of the Constitution & Ethics Committee to do this.”
Councillors voted by majority to write to central government for advice on further sanctions that can now be undertaken.
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service