Danny Buck, Hellesdon North West councillor at Broadland District Council

Conservative told to apologise for yawning loudly and laughing during Broadland job loss debate

Saturday, February 2, 2013
8.42 AM

A Conservative councillor heard yawning loudly and laughing as staff job losses were discussed has been asked to make a “formal and frank” apology.

Danny Buck’s actions were described as “ridiculously insulting” after he made the noises during a contentious debate to disband Broadland District Council’s strategy, community and housing department (SCH).

Emails raising concerns about the behaviour of Mr Buck, Tory for Hellesdon North West, were sent to the council.

Mr Buck was requested to make an appointment with the authority’s monitoring officer Martin Thrower so he could be reminded of his obligations under the code of conduct.

Mr Buck, who is undertaking a history PhD focused on witchcraft and politics along the East Anglian coast, said he did overstep the boundary and he was “extremely sorry”.

He said it occurred during an intense time of personal stress for him and he had been struggling to sleep.

Mr Buck, 24, said: “I’ve tried to carry on with council work as best as I can. It was a real yawn. It was coincidental. I have been finding it hard to sleep recently - it was unfortunate timing.

“I have a lot of respect for staff at Broadland District Council who do a wonderful job under intense pressure.”

Mr Buck confirmed he has been offered the opportunity to make a formal and frank apology at the next council meeting.

He added: “My slip on this occasion was not something intended or one I intend to repeat.”

Mr Buck said the laughter was meant to be sarcastic and was aimed at a comment made by the opposition Lib Dems during the debate, which he felt “devalued the nature of the debate”.

But the University of East Anglia student said he realised looking back at his actions they were not acceptable.

Mr Thrower confirmed no formal complaint had been received but there were emails expressing concerns about Mr Buck’s actions. The pair met on Thursday to discuss the matter.

The incident occurred during the last full council meeting at Broadland on January 24.

As Dan Roper, Spixworth with St Faiths councillor, was addressing full council for a second time on the issue of the SCH team, Mr Buck made the yawning noise.

Mr Roper remarked at the time that he was sorry for keeping Mr Buck awake after his bed time.

He later said he wished he had not used comedy and instead issued a straight reprimand.

Nich Starling, Liberal Democrat group leader, responding to Mr Buck’s yawning noise told councillors: “We are talking about people’s jobs here and for some councillors to yawn and laugh through that is ridiculously insulting.”

After the meeting, Mr Starling said: “Council meetings are held in public and the electorate should have every expectation that councillors listen during debates. Sadly last Thursday, councillor Buck admitted to making facetious comments whilst another councillor was speaking. Then we heard fake yawns and laughter during a debate regarding redundancies.

“People losing their jobs should never be a laughing matter or a time to feign boredom.”

Four people, including the head of the department, are set to lose their jobs due to the decision to disband the SCH team, little more than 12 months after it was created.

The job loss issue has proved a controversial topic at Broadland in recent months.

Kim Davis-Claydon resigned from the Conservative cabinet after warning the restructure was being carried out in the wrong way. She is now an independent councillor.

Claims made against councillor Jo Cottingham are also being investigated.

Liberal Democrat Barbara Rix accused Mrs Cottingham at a full council meeting in November of claiming she previously wanted to get rid of a member of staff - whose job is among those set to be lost under the proposals.

Mrs Rix alleged Mrs Cottingham made the comments to her at a book sale in August 2012. The job loss proposals were announced to staff in September last year.

Buxton member Mrs Rix made a formal complaint against Mrs Cottingham on November 23.

Mrs Cottingham has declined to comment on the matter while the investigation is carried out.