Cllr Sam Bromiley, Leader of the Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council, has written an open letter to Cllr Mike Drew requesting a formal apology following comments made by Cllr Drew in his capacity as Chair of Council at a recent public meeting.
The letter reads:
Dear Cllr Mike Drew,
On behalf of the Conservative Group, I would like formally to thank you for accepting the nomination for Chair of Council in May. The Chairmanship is a hugely important role and I’m sure that Council will benefit enormously from having somebody with your knowledge and experience sitting in the Chair.
At last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting, however, your conduct towards one of our new councillors was, in my view, highly inappropriate.
Cllr Kris Murphy is a new councillor, having been elected to the authority for the first time in May, and he has a very pronounced speech impediment that would no doubt have been noticeable to everybody in the chamber. It is therefore extremely disappointing and highly objectionable that in a public meeting that was being broadcast to residents across South Gloucestershire, you thought it appropriate to interrupt his speech in order to call it “garbled”.
Speaking in the chamber can be a daunting experience, especially for new members and even more so for those of us who may be self-conscious about the way we speak. Since last week, Cllr Murphy has informed me that he feels deeply hurt by your comment and that, regretfully, his confidence has been hit to the extent that he does not wish to speak in the chamber again any time soon. Throughout his life he has had to deal with prejudice aimed at him due to his speech impediment, and his mental wellbeing has now been further affected. In this context, I’m sure you would agree that it is to his enormous credit that he volunteered to put himself forward for public service in the first place.
Considering the unnecessary distress you have caused, I politely request from you a formal, written apology to Cllr Murphy for the derogatory comment you made towards him in front of councillors and members of the public.
While I recognise that your intention was to give advice to a newly elected councillor, I would not under any circumstances expect the Chair of Council to pass personal comment on speeches made by fellow members while Council is in session.
The nature of politics, at both a local and national level, means we will not always see eye-to-eye on every issue. I sincerely hope, however, that we can at the very least treat each other with a minimum standard of decency that does not include making hurtful comments to members of the opposing party during public meetings.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope Cllr Murphy will be afforded the apology he is surely owed.
Cllr Sam Bromiley
Leader of the Conservative Group and Opposition