A Lewisham councillor accused of using ‘foul, violent and abusive’ language when speaking about transgender issues at a Labour Party meeting refused to apologise for their views.  

The details of the allegations against the unnamed councillor, which also included a post on social media, emerged as a review of the council’s code of contact was presented to its standards committee on Wednesday (January 8).  

An overhaul of the current code was also discussed, including broadening the scope to involve a “rebuttable presumption that a councillor’s public behaviour, including comments made on publicly accessible social media, is in their official capacity”.  

The potential changes, which included publishing details of cases online once they are concluded, were recommended in the latest Nolan Committee review of ethical standards for local authorities.  

Kath Nicholson, the monitoring officer who investigates breaches of the code,  told the committee: “I would ask members to bear in mind the proposals that have come up from the Nolan Committee because I received a complaint relating to statements made by a councillor at a Labour Party meeting and also in relation to a tweet or social media post which were alleged to be ‘foul, violent and abusive language recklessly with no regard for the audience’ in relation to a discussion about transgender issues. 

“The complainant said ‘yes, sure I’ll go for an informal resolution’ which is the first thing I had to do and the member said ‘yes, I will too but I’m not going to apologise, I’m not going to withdraw and I’m not going to change my viewpoint’.  

“I thought that that was not peaceful, it wasn’t going to work.” 

As the allegation involved a “private social media post”, “the matters complained about did not take place when the councillor was acting on official council business or holding themself out as doing so” and the views were expressed at a Labour Party conference, therefore a “Labour Party issue”, the investigation was concluded with no further action.  

“Having said that, this is one of the issues which would be affected if the incoming process [comes into effect],” Ms Nicholson said.  

She told the committee there is currently no power to punish councillors in relation to social media posts unless they expressly state they are speaking in a professional capacity.  

Councillor Bill Brown asked Ms Nicholson if the outcomes of the investigations in the past year would have been different if the code of conduct changes had already been brought in.   

He said: “If the new rules were implemented in the cases that you’ve outlined tonight, would they all have been found guilty?” 

But Ms Nicholson said: “I wouldn’t like to comment on that because I haven’t done that investigation.  

“I wouldn’t form any judgement or conclusion on that without having done a proper assessment.” 

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We expect our staff, councillors, partners and contractors to all maintain the highest standards.

“It is therefore only right and proper that any complaints are fully investigated and the appropriate action taken.”