Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Pendle councillor's racist comments 'breached code'

Councillor Smith Benson
Councillor Smith Benson was speaking at a public meeting in Colne

A councillor from Lancashire who used racist language in a public meeting has been found to have breached his local authority's code of conduct.

Pendle borough councillor Smith Benson made the comment at a public meeting in Colne last year. He has since apologised.

Councillor Tony Greaves complained and a leading council official has now decided the comments breached the code.

The matter has now been referred to Pendle Council's standards committee.

At a meeting of the Colne town centre regeneration forum last September, Mr Benson, a Conservative councillor, said: "The problem with Colne is that there are too many takeaways. And too many Pakis, that's why people don't come to Colne."

The forum is attended by residents, business representatives, as well as borough and town councillors.

The chairman had asked for opinions on why the town had seen a reduction in visitors and a rise in empty shops.

When asked for clarification on his response, he repeated the remarks, the code of conduct report found. He then left the meeting.

The use of the term Paki in the context of a meeting of a public forum made it even more disrespectful
Philip Mousdale, monitoring officer

Mr Greaves, a Liberal Democrat councillor, was not at the meeting but made the complaint after people raised it with him.

Mr Benson sent a letter of apology to the chairman of the meeting six weeks later.

The report found he failed to comply with two aspects of the code of conduct: "You must treat others with respect" and "you must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute."

Philip Mousdale, monitoring officer for the standards committee, the author of the report, wrote: "It was a sweeping statement not supported by any evidence and in my view it was disrespectful to the Pakistani community.

"I also consider that the use of the term Paki in the context of a meeting of a public forum made it even more disrespectful."

The standards committee will meet on 20 January.

Mr Mousdale, who is also an executive director at Pendle Borough Council, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment before the standards committee meeting.

Mr Benson declined to comment before the standards committee meeting.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "The local Conservative association will discuss these remarks and take any necessary steps following the decision by the Standards Committee."

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