Ex-chairman's 'nutty' remark breached code

A standards investigation has found the former chairman of Breckland Council breached political guidelines by describing mental health sufferers as “nutty”.

A standards investigation has found the former chairman of Breckland Council breached political guidelines by describing mental health sufferers as "nutty".

Roy Rudling, who served as chairman of the council last year, prompted outrage and calls for his resignation when he joked "so 25pc of us are nutty" following a presentation by the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust last year.

Now standards officers at the council have found that Mr Rudling, who stood down from the council in May after 28 years, breached the code of conduct for acceptable behaviour with the remarks.

A separate standards investigation into former councillor Earl Cathcart, who left the council in May to sit in the House of Lords, found that he did not breach the code when he referred to sufferers of mental illness as "mental" at the same meeting.

Following the outcry in August last year, Mr Rudling issued a formal apology and Earl Cathcart said he had no prejudice against people with mental illness.

In his report, Breckland standards officer Iain Hook says: "This was a most unfortunate situation to occur at a full council meeting.

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"I do believe that councillor Rudling was trying to be courteous, as chairman of the council, during the presentation and his comments were taken out of context."

But he rules that no action should be taken against Mr Rudling in spite of the breach.

He also says it is disappointing that Mr Rudling had refused earlier equality training but noted he was later present when the Breckland Disability Equality Scheme and Action Plan was adopted.

Mr Rudling strongly denied breaching the code of conduct, writing a letter to Mr Hook where he said: "As the chairman of what was a public meeting I would stress that there was absolutely no intent whatsoever of causing offence to anyone by any remarks I made."

Mr Hook recommends that when similar presentations are held at the council in future all members should receive up-to-date training in equalities issues.

Both investigations will be discussed by Breckland at its standards committee meeting at 2.15pm on Tuesday at its offices in Dereham.

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