Vice chairman of South Kesteven District Council heard to make racist remark at public meeting
A formal complaint is being made about the vice chairman of a council who made a racist comment at a public meeting.
Coun Ian Stokes (Con) used a racist expression while chairing a governance and audit committee meeting at South Kesteven District Council's chambers this afternoon (Wednesday). He has since apologised for making the remark.
Coun Stokes, who represents Peascliffe and Ridgeway ward near Grantham, is vice-chairman of the council and is due to take over as chairman of the council next year. The position is currently held by Coun Breda Griffin.
The district council committee meeting was open to the public and streamed on South Kesteven District Council's YouTube channel.
Coun Stokes made the racist comment about 30 minutes into the meeting.
Ashley Baxter, who represents Market and West Deeping, and mayor of Stamford Gloria Johnson were also present.
Coun Ashley Baxter (Ind) was present when Coun Stokes made the remarks.
He said: "When I heard Coun Stokes say those words, I thought surely I haven't heard that correctly. Surely he wouldn't have said that as chairman of a public meeting and as vice-chairman of the council - but he did.
"To use such archaic, racist language is totally unacceptable."
Coun Baxter, who attended the council's diversity training, said he would be putting in a formal complaint to the monitoring officer.
District councillor Amanda Wheeler (Lib Dem aligned with Ind), is a supporter of Stamford Anti-Racism Group and was contacted by a councillor at the meeting about the incident.
She said: "It is a year since we passed an anti-racism motion at South Kesteven District Council, which was unanimously supported.
"One aspect of that motion was that councillors undergo diversity training.
"Had Coun Ian Stokes attended that training he would know full-well that using offensive language is not acceptable behaviour.
"I am appalled, shocked and saddened that not only was he comfortable saying this in the chamber, but that no one challenged him publicly.
"It's not acceptable. It's never acceptable.
"I call on Ian Stokes to apologise for his unacceptable use of language and to attend the diversity training he clearly needs."
She added that she was grateful to the Independent councillor who notified her of the slur.
Yvette Diaz-Munoz of Stamford Anti-Racism Group said: "The expression he used is a racial slur and should never be used. He should resign.
"In 2017 when Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris used the same expression she was suspended from the party.
"The term is believed to have its roots in the ‘Underground Railroad’ route to freedom used by those who had been enslaved and who were fugitives in the south of the United States in the mid-19th Century and referred to hiding in woodstacks outside houses and in pulpwood in railway carriages.
"The term is dehumanising. You only need to watch films like 12 Years a Slave to see how it is used as a weapon to treat black people as inferior.
"In short it is deeply offensive and I was frankly shocked to hear that someone in such a position of responsibility could even think it appropriate to use such a term."
Coun Ian Stokes, whose son Adam also sits on South Kesteven District Council, said: "I unreservedly apologise for the wording I used in today’s governance and audit meeting, the phase was completely unacceptable and I withdraw this remark.
"It was said accidentally and for that I am truly and deeply sorry for any offence that I have caused to anyone."
Coun Kelham Cooke (Con), leader of the council, said: "As a Conservative Group and as a district council we take any form of racism incredibly seriously, especially when remarks are made that could cause serious offence.
"As a Conservative administration we consider the use of this type of language by any member completely unacceptable.
"It is right that Coun Ian Stokes has formally apologised and withdrawn the remark he made at the committee meeting today.”