November 18, 2021 11.46 am

Council vice chairman resigns after using n-word in public meeting on YouTube

A week before a breach of conduct report

The vice chairman of South Kesteven District Council has resigned from his role ahead of a report into a racist remark he made at a public meeting.

While chairing a governance and audit committee on October 20, 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 Peascliffe and Ridgeway councillor was later suspended from the Conservative group.

Council leader Kelham Cooke said in a statement: “I can confirm that I have been notified that Councillor Ian Stokes has resigned as vice chairman of South Kesteven District Council, chairman of governance and audit committee and resigned [from] all the committees he was a member [of].”

Councillor Stokes remains an independent councillor.

Next Thursday, a report on the incident is due to recommend several sanctions against Councillor Stokes, including asking him to make a further apology and attend equality and diversity training.

The report, from monitoring officer Alan Robinson, says he breached the code of conduct and states: “Councillor Ian Stokes, in saying the phrase and the racist connotations the phrase represents, is [in] significant breach of this part of the code. His behaviour falls below the standards expected of anyone working in public office.

“In addition, use of such a phrase is in conflict of the council’s equality and diversity policy and the equality and diversity objectives set out in the council’s corporate plan 2020-2023.”

Councillors were also set to consider his position as vice chairman of the council and chairman of the governance and audit committee and his membership on other committees for the remainder of the municipal year – but this was prior to his resignation today.

Finally, councillors will be asked to vote on whether or not Councillor Stokes should have to put a “public censure notice” on his profile until the end of his current term in office.

Councillor Stokes’ comments sparked a petition for his resignation and calls for more equality and diversity training for councillors to be made mandatory.

It was later revealed just over a quarter of councillors took up a voluntary diversity course put in place following a successful motion by Liberal Democrat Amanda Wheeler.

Councillor Wheeler will be renewing her push for further training at the same meeting on Thursday.

In a motion to “make training mandatory”, she said: “In view of recent inappropriate language spoken by a councillor at a public committee meeting, South Kesteven District Council needs to ensure that all councillors are suitably prepared for their roles as public representatives.

“At present, training is only mandatory if members sit on specific committees, such as licensing and planning.

“There is an extensive programme of additional training offered to councillors which, disappointingly, often has to be cancelled due to lack of interest. However, if councillors are to effectively serve their community, then training to support their knowledge and understanding is essential.”

Councillor Stokes has been contacted for a comment.

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