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Councillor punished for 'offensive' email blasting disability campaigners as 'selfish'

PUBLISHED: 16:56 24 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 24 October 2019

Judith and Nick Taylor from Buxton with the email they received from Norfolk County Councillor Margaret Stone. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Judith and Nick Taylor from Buxton with the email they received from Norfolk County Councillor Margaret Stone. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A councillor who branded a group of disability campaigners as "selfish" has been sanctioned for "offensive" and "unacceptable" conduct by a standards board.

Margaret Stone, Conservative councillor for Clavering. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Margaret Stone, Conservative councillor for Clavering. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Conservative county councillor Margaret Stone saw 29 separate complaints made against her after she called a couple campaigning against disability cuts "selfish" and "biased".

In response to an email from Nick and Julie Taylor, who founded the Disability Norfolk Networking Group (DNNG), inviting her to a meeting to discuss the cuts, she wrote: "I am increasingly disgusted in your campaign which is so selfish as to believe your needs are greater than the rest of the population.

"Your meetings are biased and lack credibility."

The comments sparked outrage, and Mrs Stone resigned as chairman of the council's health overview and scrutiny committee.

And now a standards committee hearing has upheld the dozens of complaints made about the email, which Mrs Stone sent on August 24, and formally sanctioned her for three "serious breaches" of the council's code of conduct.

A report from the standards hearing sub-committee, which met on Tuesday, October 22, issued her with a formal reprimand and stated: "Your email was offensive and caused offence to a large group of people. It is unacceptable for a councillor to communicate in the terms used in your email.

"Your conduct fell far below the expectations Norfolk residents have of their county councillors."

Mrs Stone must also attend formal training on the code of conduct, arranged by the council's chief legal officer, Helen Edwards.

The hearing heard how her response was sent "late at night" and "at a time when she was exasperated" due to what she deemed "unfair and offensive" attacks on Conservative members, and believed her response was only being sent to Mrs Taylor, rather than the DNNG.

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Mrs Taylor said: "As far as we're concerned and the group is concerned, we're asking for her resignation. You can't treat people like that in her position.

"We feel very angry about it. You can't say something like that and not mean it.

"It was very upsetting for the disabled people of Norfolk and their carers.

"When she apologised it wasn't very sincere."

And Mr Taylor added: "If she was truly remorseful, she would have resigned a long time ago."

Mrs Stone said she accepted the outcome of the hearing and welcomed the opportunity for further training.

"I regret deeply what I did," she said.

"My entire professional life has been working for the NHS supporting people with a range of disabilities.

"I started life as a nurse and I care deeply about people - that's why I became a councillor."

She added: "I'm entirely sympathetic and understanding as to their difficulties and support everything they've done.

"The email was misinterpreted. I really do care about people."

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