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Friday, 17 May 2013
COMPLAINT: Cllr Hillier compared Cllr Callaghan to a 'nine-month-old baby'
COMPLAINT: Cllr Callaghan
Councillors at it again as another Tory faces official complaint
A SENIOR Tory councillor who used an official document to insult a rival is now the subject of an official complaint.
Stephen Hillier, chairman of Basildon Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, compared Labour member Gavin Callaghan to a 'teenage girl' and a 'nine-month old baby'.
His words appeared in written response to a question from Cllr Callaghan about the Felmores Bail Hostel in last month's Full Council meeting.
Cllr Hillier chaired the committee's review into the hostel, which was launched after several women and children were targeted by hostel residents, one of whom sexually abused a seven-year-old boy.
The incidents sparked calls to move the hostel away from its current residential location.
The report concluded in March that most residents did not mind living alongside convicted rapists and paedophiles.
Cllr Callaghan branded the review a 'whitewash'.
Cllr Hillier penned a six-page response, published as an official council document, including numerous personal criticisms of Cllr Callaghan.
He compared Cllr Callaghan to a 'teenage girl flouncing out of the room petticoats a-twirl because she did not get her own way'. He accused Cllr Callaghan of 'unaffected simplicity' and likened him to a 'nine-month-old baby'.
He wrote: “When I first got elected to council 22 years ago, Cllr Callaghan was probably running around in romper suits.”
Cllr Hillier penned the document under sub-headings, including 'My belief in the naivety of Cllr Callaghan' and 'My belief in the immaturity of Cllr Callaghan'.
Cllr Callaghan has reported Cllr Hillier to the council's monitoring officer, who decided on Tuesday that he should face the Standards Committee.
Cllr Callaghan said: “In my view, this abuse of council procedure demonstrates Cllr Hillier's contempt for the electorate.
“When he insults and mocks me, he insults and mocks the people of Pitsea North West, who have democratically elected me to represent them.
“I'm sure the residents who live with this hostel on their doorstep will not find this flippant response as funny as Cllr Hillier appears to.
“These residents live in fear that their children will become the next Soham girls or the next April Jones. Cllr Hillier is paid an extra £6,000-a-year to chair the Scrutiny Committee, but all he can offer them is an egotistical rant about how he has been a councillor for 22 years.”
Cllr Hillier described Cllr Callaghan's complaint as 'unfounded'.
He said: “He asked this question in the meeting his party then walked out of. The document he's got is what I would have said in a speech to him if he had remained in the meeting.”
The Taxpayers' Alliance took a dim view of the argument.
Campaign manager Eleanor McGrath said: “It's important that when a councillor asks a question during a committee meeting on behalf of a local resident, that they are answered in a full and professional manager.
“Local residents will therefore be disappointed by this unseemly squabbling by their elected representatives.”
Cllr Callaghan was originally a member of the hostel review, but quit partway through, claiming it was merely 'lip service'.
The final report suggested three agencies – Essex County Council, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – might have suitable land to relocate the hostel.
However, a YA investigation revealed that Essex Council and the MOJ had ruled themselves out before the review even begun and the HCA said the council had never contacted it about the hostel.
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