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Tory councillor made ‘grossly sexist’ comment to Labour activist

PUBLISHED: 14:14 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:14 19 July 2018

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Pentelow was found to have breached the council's code of conduct. Picture: Archant

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Pentelow was found to have breached the council's code of conduct. Picture: Archant

Archant

A Tory councillor will be formally censured after he made a “grossly sexist” comment to a Labour activist.

North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust. Picture: Ian BurtNorth West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust. Picture: Ian Burt

West Norfolk councillor Toby Wing-Pentelow was found to have breached the council’s code of conduct in a standards committee hearing this morning.

At a council meeting on January 25, Mr Wing-Pentelow made a comment alluding to prostitution at local Labour secretary Jo Rust, who attended the meeting as a member of the public.

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

Conservative backbencher Mr Wing-Pentelow retorted: “What, down the docks?”

Mrs Rust made a formal complaint to the monitoring officer, stating that his remark was King’s Lynn slang for prostitution.

But Mr Wing-Pentelow said the remark was a reference to the offices of the town’s homeless charity the Purfleet Trust.

In the standards committee hearing, investigating officer Alexa Baker said she did not find Mr Wing-Pentelow’s explanation credible, adding: “It’s hard to understand why that explanation was not delivered immediately.

“The comment that was made was highly misjudged for comedic effect at the expense of the complainant [Mrs Rust].”

Ms Baker added that there was not sufficient evidence to support Mrs Rust’s claims that the remark was directly sexist towards her, but that it was broadly sexist.

When asked by monitoring officer Emma Duncan whether Mr Wing-Pentelow would have made the same remark to a man, Ms Baker said she believed he would.

Ms Baker added: “The councillor made a grossly sexist and offensive comment by referencing prostitution. By not apologising until very much the eleventh hour that aggravated the breach more than if he had apologised straight away.”
Committee chairman Barry Ayres said the panel did not accept Mr Wing-Pentelow’s explanation that he was asking a genuine question.

Mr Wing-Pentelow, who did not attend the hearing, will be made to apologise to Mrs Rust and will be removed from any committee membership and appointments with outside bodies. He will be reported to a full council meeting in September to be formally censured.

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