A Cornwall councillor who said disabled children “should be put down” has been found guilty of breaching the councillors’ code of conduct – but cannot be suspended.
Wadebridge East member Collin Brewer’s comments were described by a panel investigating the claims as “outrageous and grossly offensive”.
Cornwall Council said it received 180 complaints about Mr Brewer following the revelation that he said disabled children should be put down as they cost the council too much – and a subsequent interview he gave to the Disability News Service after his re-election on May 2 where he likened disabled children to deformed lambs.
On Friday its findings were considered by the council’s standards committee in a behind-closed-doors session.
Although Mr Brewer has been found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct, the council does not have the legal power to remove him from his position as a councillor.
A council spokesman said: “The authority previously had the ability to suspend councillors following the investigation and determination of Code of Conduct complaints, however, following the Government’s changes to the Code of Conduct complaints process, this sanction is no longer available.”
The council said that “given the seriousness of the breach” the council’s monitoring has imposed the highest level of sanctions currently available to the council.
• Formally censuring Mr Brewer for the outrageous and grossly insensitive remarks he made in the telephone conversation with John Pring on May 8 and directing him to make a formal apology for the gross offensiveness of his comments and the significant distress they caused.
• A recommendation to the group that Mr Brewer should not be allocated a seat on any Council Committees that deal or might deal with issues relating to disabled children or other vulnerable members of the community and that he should be banned from access to Council premises or parts of premises where services to disabled children are provided, managed or commissioned.
• That Councillor Brewer is not nominated as the Council’s representative on any outside body that is involved with providing services or support to disabled children or other vulnerable members of the community.
• Mr Brewer will also be expected to attend further training on the Code of Conduct and in dealing with the media.
A council spokesman added: “We recognise the strength of feeling on this sensitive issue and share the frustrations of members of the public over the limited sanctions at our disposal. The monitoring officer has made it clear that if the powers had still been available to the council he would have either recommended that Mr Brewer be suspended or referred the matter to the First Tier Tribunal who would have had wider powers of sanction available to them.
“This view is supported by members of the Council’s Standards Committee who are recommending that the Council writes to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Committee for Standards in Public Life expressing the Council’s concern over the removal of the authority’s power to impose meaningful sanctions in response to breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct. This recommendation will be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting of the full Council.”