Ipswich: Councillor forced to apologise after Tories walk out of borough council meeting "disgusted" at dyslexia jibe
PUBLISHED: 12:28 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:18 23 September 2013
Borough chiefs have been labelled "insulting", "childish" and "thoughtless" by Tory councillors who chose to demonstrate their irritation at comments made during a meeting by storming out.
Stoke Park representative, Nadia Cenci aired her disgust online, telling blog readers that the walk-out was prompted by Labour leader David Ellesmere calling a member of the public “bizarre”, and another cabinet member’s refusal to apologise for highlighting a spelling error made by a dyslexic councillor.
She said: “I expect respect when I go to a council meeting. I expect that when I ask a question, whether others think it ridiculous or not, for that question to be answered sensibly. This time it was not me who was targeted and so I felt I could walk out. I was furious.”
Ms Cenci blasted Labour’s economic development chief, Carole Jones, for drawing attention to Bixley councillor Richard Pope’s misspelling of the word ‘embarrassed’ in a question.
She also directed anger at council leader Ellesmere, saying he called Ipswich resident and Conservative blogger Kevin Algar “bizarre”.
Mr Ellesmere denies the accusation, saying it was Mr Algar who first used the word when making a statement he felt was equally bizarre.
However, the Labour leader accepted that exposing Mr Pope’s inaccuracy had been regrettable and that, although no one had been aware of his dyslexia, a written apology had been made.
Mr Ellesmere said: “In what was quite a hostile question from councillor Pope, he asked if councillor Jones was embarrassed that Ipswich was shut on a Monday. Councillor Jones said she would have been to misspell the word embarrassed.
“No one was aware that councillor Pope was dyslexic. I think councillor Jones regarded the comment as a light-hearted one between two teachers and was mortified when it was revealed he was dyslexic. She has since apologised.”
Liz Harsant, who has represented Holywells since 2002 and led the previous Conservative council for six years, also walked out of last Wednesday’s meeting. She said: “The whole thing, from the start of the question and answer session, was unkind. They were thoughtless.
“They were being patronising and cruel. Behaviour like this – making light of a person’s dyslexia – does not send a good message to youngsters and those suffering with dyslexia. I was so cross.
“There is of course a place for banter in council meetings, but this went beyond the mark.”
Mr Ellesmere said he had previously been the victim of ridicule from the opposition, but that the council chamber could be a heated arena. He added: “It can be quite a bear pit. I’ve had some not-too -pleasant comments aimed at me in council meetings and by Conservative party bloggers, some of which I have found quite hurtful, but I have developed a thick skin. You expect to have some people disagreeing with you.”
But Ms Cenci added: “Of course in politics you expect a certain amount of banter and heated debate but this over-stepped the mark, they were having a laugh at someone else’s expense, it was insulting and childish, like being back in the playground.”