Monday, 8 July 2013

Collin Brewer censured and resigns

Collin Brewer has announced his intention of resigning from Cornwall Council. His move came after the council's monitoring officer produced a report censuring him for outrageous and grossly insensitive comments about children with disabilities.

The story of Collin Brewer's remarks has been a long and tortuous one. Two years ago he made comments to a representative of Disability Cornwall saying that 'disabled children should be put down'. After a long standards board process, Cllr Brewer resigned. He then stood for re-election in this May's contests and was re-elected by two votes.

At that stage we thought that was the end of the matter. Many of us were unhappy to see him returned, but the will of his local electorate has to be respected and they had voted him back in the full knowledge of what he had done.

However, he then made more comments during a telephone interview with a journalist from Disability News Service. These included remarks which appeared to compare children with disabilities to 'deformed lambs whose heads should be smashed against brick walls'.

Mr Brewer immediately entered the standards process once again and the results of that were announced today.

The report of the monitoring officer found Mr Brewer guilty of the offences complained about. In a very strongly worded judgement, he was censured, ordered to apologise and banned from council premises where services for children with disabilities are commissioned or delivered. He was also ordered to go on various training programmes.

Some people have asked why more could not be done. Why could he not be disbarred from the council or suspended at the very least?

Sadly, these sanctions have been taken away from councils by the government. In the past we could have suspended him or referred him to what is known as the 'first tier tribunal' which could have disbarred him from public office. These sanctions are no longer available. The most we can do is the rather pathetic censure and ordering him to make an apology.

Tomorrow, Cornwall Council will debate calling on the government to return to us the power of suspension. I will listen to this debate with interest. Clearly the Collin Brewer case has demonstrated a good case for why the removal of these powers was wrong.

In the meantime, Collin Brewer has announced his intention to resign from the council. To be effective, such a move must be made in writing and so will only become official when his letter arrives in the post in the next couple of days.

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