The vice chairman of South Kesteven District Council has been suspended by the Conservative Party after making a racist remark at a public meeting.
While chairing a governance and audit committee on Wednesday, Councillor Ian Stokes used the n-word in response to another member’s comments.
He said: “Well that’s put a little n****r in the woodpile so to speak.”
The comment sparked complaints from a number of councillors along with external organisations and social media users, with Councillor Stokes reportedly apologising after the meeting.
However, this morning Conservative Council leader Kelham Cooke said in a statement: “As a Conservative group and as a district council we take any form of racism incredibly seriously, especially when remarks are made that could cause serious offence.
“As a Conservative administration we consider the use of this type of language by any member completely unacceptable. It is right that Councillor Ian Stokes has formally apologised and withdrawn the remark he made at the committee meeting.
“Councillor Stokes has been suspended from the Conservative group of South Kesteven District Council pending an investigation by the Conservative Party and the results of any investigation to be undertaken by the monitoring officer of South Kesteven District Council.”
A South Kesteven District Council spokesman said an official complaint had not yet been made at the time of inquiry, however, the monitoring officer for South Kesteven District Council, Alan Robinson, was present at the meeting and spoke to Councillor Stokes about the language he had used.
Mr Robinson said: “I am pleased that Councillor Stokes has issued an unreserved apology. If a formal complaint is made I will, as monitoring officer, consider the most appropriate course of action in line with our councillor code of conduct.”
Independent Councillor Ashley Baxter was one of those present.
He said: “It’s the right decision and I hope it means he will also be suspended from the responsibility of chairman of the governance and audit committee.
“The meeting was chaotic anyway yesterday and this was really the lowest point.
“He has done the right thing by apologising, I hope he means it and he will take up any training that he’s offered.”
As vice chairman, Councillor Stokes would have been in line to take on the mantle of chairmanship and wear the ceremonial garb next year, however, Councillor Baxter felt it would not be appropriate for that to go ahead.
Another member unhappy with Councillor Stokes taking on that role was Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Wheeler, who last year successfully pushed for diversity training to be offered to all councillors.
“It’s a figure-head for our council and I find it unacceptable to use that language. I really feel uncomfortable with that,” she said.
Councillor Wheeler, who was not present at the meeting, said she had been “angry and shocked” that Councillor Stokes had used that language, adding her first reaction had been “disbelief” over the reports and that she had to watch the meeting back herself.
However, she added: “There were plenty of people in that room who must have heard those words and nobody said anything.”
Councillor Wheeler is now calling for the training to be mandatory, particularly for senior councillors, as she feels not enough took up the option.
Councillor Stokes has been contacted for comment.