District councillor made to apologise to parish clerk for “lurid” comments

Marking the beginning of construction of a new 3G pitch off Swan Lane. Pictured: Bobbie Bennett, Lon

Marking the beginning of construction of a new 3G pitch off Swan Lane. Pictured: Bobbie Bennett, Long Stratton parish clerk (far left), South Norfolk councillors Des Fulcher (first from left), Kevin Worsley, Clayton Hudson, South Norfolk Council chief executive Sandra Dinneen and Long Strattion Parish Cuncil chairman Steve Adcock. Picture from South Norfolk Council - Credit: South Norfolk Council

A district councillor who made 'lurid' comments about a parish clerk over a football is being made to apologise to her by his council.

Des Fulcher was one of several South Norfolk councillors present at a turf cutting ceremony for a new 3G pitch in Long Stratton when he made an offensive comment to the town's parish clerk Bobbie Bennett.

Stratton ward representative Mr Fulcher failed to attend a standards committee meeting at South Norfolk Council on Friday to discuss a report into allegations that he had breached the council's code of conduct.

His comments were made after Mrs Bennett made an attempt to clean grass off a football which was to be used as a prop in a press photograph at the event in August.

After attempts to resolve the issue internally failed, an official complaint was lodged in September and referred to the standards committee.

A report of the incident was compiled by the council's monitoring officer Leah Mickleburgh, who had obtained witness statements corroborating Mrs' Bennett's allegation.

One witness labelled Mr Fulcher's remarks 'lurid, rude and degrading', while another said they had found the comment 'inappropriate' and it had made the rest of the group 'uncomfortable'.

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In a statement submitted to the monitoring officer, Mrs Bennett said she was 'mortified and did not know what to do' after Mr Fulcher's comments at the event.

At the meeting she said she was 'a little bit surprised and disappointed that it has got to this stage'.

She said Mr Fulcher had made other similar comments to her. 'His attitude was that it was okay to go around and make comments or insinuations or noises of that type.

'I may not have formally complained if at any point the councillor had come up and said 'I understand I have offended you, I am really sorry', or even just acknowledged it, but he did not. I think that is a shame.'

In a response sent to the monitoring officer, Mr Fulcher said he found the 'whole alleged scenario rather odd and disappointing'.

He claimed it was 'slightly windy' at the time which may have 'impaired the hearing' of the people present.

The monitoring officer's report said Mr Fulcher 'does not explicitly deny saying what has been alleged, only that he does not agree with the allegation' that he had breached the council's code of conduct.

But the standards committee found that Mr Fulcher had failed to comply with the code.

Chairman Kay Mason Billig said: 'We have decided that we would like to impose sanctions that he undertake further training, make a public apology, and issue a written reprimand, in the form of a censure.'