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Tory councillor investigated for alleged prostitution remark against Labour activist

PUBLISHED: 10:26 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:26 13 July 2018

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Penterlow faces a standards committee hearing. Picture: Archant

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Penterlow faces a standards committee hearing. Picture: Archant

Archant

A Tory councillor is being investigated over claims he made an inappropriate comment to a Labour activist.

Mr Wing-Pentelow allegedly made an insulting remark against Jo Rust. Picture: Matthew Usher.Mr Wing-Pentelow allegedly made an insulting remark against Jo Rust. Picture: Matthew Usher.

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Pentelow faces a standards hearing over an alleged remark he made against local Labour secretary Jo Rust.

A report by the council’s investigating officer stated he had breached the code of conduct by failing to treat her with respect.

On January 25, Mrs Rust, raised the issue of homelessness when she attended a council meeting as a member of the public.

She asked councillor Adrian Lawrence, portfolio holder for housing and community, whether councillors would consider joining her at a sleep-out.

Tory backbencher Mr Wing-Pentelow responded: “What, down the docks?”

It is alleged that the councillor’s comment was King’s Lynn slang for prostitution.

Mrs Rust immediately addressed the monitoring officer Emma Duncan to make a formal complaint, as she considered the remark to be “a display of sexism”.

The investigator’s report states: “The complainant [Mrs Rust] considers that the councillor’s meaning could have been two-fold - either that the complainant [Mrs Rust] was inviting councillor Lawrence for sex or implying that every female homeless person is a prostitute.”

Mr Wing-Pentelow said the comment was in reference to the location of a King’s Lynn homeless charity.

When asked by the monitoring officer for a response to the complaint, he responded: “It is a clear reference to the Purfleet Trust which as you are well aware is based at the docks entrance.”

In their findings, the investigating officer said Mr Wing-Pentelow’s response was not a credible explanation, adding: “I find it highly unusual that the councillor would not seek to correct and clarify himself at the time.”

“If the councillor displayed some insight into the comment made, it is very easy to see how it could have come across as a reference to prostitution.

“Nevertheless, the councillor maintains that there is nothing to apologise for.”

Mr Wing-Pentelow, councillor for Springwood ward, will face a Standard Committee hearing on Thursday, July 19, where the panel will consider whether he has breached the code of conduct and what action should be taken.

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