December 13, 2022 7.00 pm This story is over 16 months old

Councillor ‘censured over heated conversation’ with council employee

He admits being disrespectful and has apologised

A South Kesteven District councillor will be censured after a council officer’s complaint against him was upheld.

Councillor Ashley Baxter faced a Code of Conduct hearing over a “heated conversation” that he had with the official in March.

He has accepted that his conduct was over the line, and says he has already apologised twice.

A second complaint made on behalf of the Conservative group, which he labelled “petty and vindictive”, was reportedly not upheld.

The public was excluded from the hearing to protect the identities of the complainants.

Both complaints related to a full council meeting held on March 3, 2022.

“After the meeting, I had a heated conversation with a group of people about the way it had gone,” Councillor Baxter (Alliance SK – Market and West Deepings) said.

“I didn’t use abusive, foul or threatening language, but on the way home I realised I shouldn’t have been disrespectful.

“I apologised to the person involved the following day, and then again in May. I am happy to do so once again.”

The public were asked to leave the conduct meeting before the details of the allegations were discussed | Photo: LDRS/The Lincolnite

The censure will be displayed on South Kesteven’s website, and Councillor Baxter will also be required to attend a training course.

A second complaint was raised by a Conservative member on behalf of the entire group, which was reportedly dismissed.

Councillor Baxter says that the meeting, which was held in Grantham’s Meres Leisure Centre, was chaotic and there were mistakes in the agenda.

He acknowledges interrupting several times in order to raise points of order.

This complaint has reportedly not been upheld, although a full report into the hearing hasn’t been released.

“It is a shame that Tory snowflakes put forward a petty and vindictive complaint to stop me from doing my job properly,” Councillor Baxter said.

“They seem to have seen my attempts to clarify the constitution as somehow mischievous.

South Kesteven District Council heard the complaints in private | Photo: LDRS/The Lincolnite

“Councillors should have thick skins and accept reasonable criticism.

“The panel recognised that the meeting wasn’t well organised.

“In order to prevent this from happening in future, it is important that meetings are properly organised, the chair remains in control and all councillors are respectful.

“My big fear was that they would introduce sanctions which would interfere with me doing my job as councillor.”

The cost of investigation was over £9,000, which included the hiring of outside legal advisers.

Update: South Kesteven District Council leader Kelham Cooke has issued a statement on the findings

“Now the decision notice has been published, it is extremely disappointing that for the first time since the standards rules were created in 2012, an elected member of South Kesteven District Council has breached the code of conduct by a hearing review panel due to the seriousness of the complaints raised against this councillor and his behaviours towards officers of our council.

“Our officers are dedicated and hardworking for all residents across the district, and I am saddened that we find ourselves in the position we do today. I would like to thank our officers for their dedication and commitment to South Kesteven. I hope the Councillor will reflect on his behaviours towards our officers and others for the disrespectful language and stress and anxiety caused to individuals.

“An external monitoring officer had to be brought in to help investigate this to ensure impartiality with the investigation and another to advise the panel. We wouldn’t have had to do this, if the Councillor hadn’t behaved in such a way that seriously challenged the integrity and professionalism of our officers which I and many others felt strongly we must defend.

“I hope that this Councillor will now reflect on his behaviours towards our officers and fellow members and treat them with the respect that befits the office of being an elected councillor.”

MyLocal Lincolnshire is the new home of The Lincolnite. Download the app now.