UKIP county councillor guilty of disrepute and bullying after comments made to young people found to be “inappropriate”

Cllr Gordon Gillick. Picture: Steve Williams

Cllr Gordon Gillick. Picture: Steve Williams - Credit: Archant

A Wisbech councillor made “inappropriate” comments to a group of young people and has broken the county council’s code of conducts in three areas, an investigation concluded.

Councillor Gordon Gillick will learn his fate next Tuesday when a report into the allegations is presented to the constitution and ethics committee of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Quentin Baker, the monitoring officer, said there had cross party complaints about Cllr Gillick and the remarks made to a group of young people at a safeguarding seminar last November held for newly elected councillors.

Two examples of Cllr Gillick’s actions were cited – the first during a discussion about the role of social workers in respects of representing the interests of looked after children. It included references to the requirement to attend at court hearings was described.

Cllr Gillick is alleged to have interrupted the speaker “along the lines of ‘these are secret courts aren’t they, come on, tell us the truth’”

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Mr Baker says following the interruption the audience became “agitated” and in an interview later with the speaker he said she found his approach “antagonistic”.

Cllr Gillick told an investigation team that “I did not know the presenter’s name. My question was a reference to the secret courts. I just interjected really; probably not the way to do it but the session rattled at such a rate, if I did not just say it, it wouldn’t get said.”

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A second complaint against the UKIP councillor related to how he spoke to three young people after their presentation about care and a film that had been made by them.

After the film was screened, questions were invited and Cllr Gillick, said Mr Baker, “blurted out in an aggressive manner, directing his question in a sneering tone at the three young people ‘it was all very me, me, me your film. What about your responsibilities- to work to give back for example. Can you tell us, how does it feel to be takers from the system?’”

Mr Baker said one letter of complaint said the young people “found the way Cllr Gillick spoke to them was inappropriate, rude, disrespectful and especially shocking given what the film was about. He made them feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. They were very disappointed that someone with his power and position would speak to them in such a way.”

The monitoring officer’s report reveals the scale and extent of the inquiry into Cllr Gillick’s behaviour on the day.

One councillor present, Susan Van de Ven, said: “There was no polite introduction, he just laid into them like a verbal assault.”

Nicola Clemo, service director children’s social care, said that Cllr Gillick “stayed seated but the comment he said was in a very challenging manner. He certainly had not moderated his tone on the basis that he was speaking to young people.”

Councillor Paul Bullen, UKIP group leader, said: “It is my opinion that Cllr Gillick meant it as a constructive criticism but it probably came across as criticism of the young people. The way in which he said it was wrong when considering the purpose of the seminar.”

In part of his evidence to the inquiry, Cllr Gillick said he “wasn’t particularly assertive. Since I have been here, I have found that any question can be seen as challenging. I was possibly more placatory to them than to officers.

“I am very sorry if I offended them, it was not my intention. It is a generation thing, if I am honest.”

He was found to have brought the council into disrepute, of bullying, and of failing to treat others with respect.

Gill Holmes, an independent person appointed to examine the evidence, said Cllr Gillick’s actions were “unacceptable” and showed “clear disregard and disrespect for others”.

But Ms Holmes said in the light of his unreserved apology and acknowledgement that his remarks were ill considered she was of the view there would be little benefit in sending the report for a formal hearing.

In his letter of apology Cllr Gillick says that he “completely accepts” the conclusions of the investigator.

“I now appreciate that what I said was inappropriate and I regret that I did so. “Furthermore I realise that what I said may well have hurt the feelings of the young people present at the training sessions and I am deeply sorry for any pain I have caused them.”

Promising to apologise further, and to do so in person if necessary, he said he hoped his letter “will obviate the need for a panel hearing and confirm that I will do my utmost to learn from this unfortunate experience.”

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