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Racist comment by Coun Ian Stokes to be considered by South Kesteven District Council

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A councillor who used a racist remark while chairing a public meeting said he felt unwell on the day it happened.

Coun Ian Stokes also claimed he meant to say “needle in a haystack” rather than an expression referring to a woodpile that he used at a South Kesteven District Council committee meeting on October 20.

A report due to be discussed at Thursday’s full council meeting of South Kesteven District Council discloses Coun Ian Stokes said in evidence that he was feeling unwell on the day he was chairing the committee meeting, and that he was “exhausted” and “had no energy”.

Coun Ian Stokes
Coun Ian Stokes

He had not had the opportunity to eat lunch and, as a diabetic, missing food was "not ideal".

The report from council monitoring officer Alan Robinson continues: “His mind was not with it following a busy day moving furniture at home and other things occurring in his personal life that day.

“The vice-chairman of the governance and audit committee had missed the pre-meeting due to a dental appointment."

Coun Ian Stokes was chairing a committee meeting of South Kesteven District Council. Image: SKDC / YouTube
Coun Ian Stokes was chairing a committee meeting of South Kesteven District Council. Image: SKDC / YouTube

Coun Stokes had hoped to ask his deputy to chair the committee on his behalf, but was unsure if they could attend.

There had also been a mix up with the agenda papers, and Coun Stokes had also considered adjourning the committee meeting.

Evidence outlined in the monitoring officer’s report concludes Coun Stokes “recognised that the comment he said was wrong and that what he meant to say was ‘needle in a haystack’”.

He issued a public apology immediately after the meeting and did not think there was further action he could take because “what had happened has happened”.

Mr Robinson was present at the committee meeting but did not clearly hear the phrase used by Coun Stokes until he listened to it later on the council’s YouTube channel. The recording has since been censored.

Mr Robinson will suggest Coun Stokes broke the council’s code of conduct and that he should make a further public apology and attend equality and diversity training. All South Kesteven district councillors were invited to attend the training in June but only 15 out of 56 councillors did so. Coun Stokes was not among them.

Coun Stokes, who represents the ward of Peascliffe and Ridgeway near Grantham, resigned as vice-chairman of the council and from his committee positions earlier this week.

He had previously been suspended from the Conservative group.

What do you think? Email smeditor@stamfordmercury.co.uk

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