Town hall outburst leaves newly elected councillor under investigation despite apology

An investigation has been launched into the conduct of a councillor less than three months after he was elected in Barnsley following an outburst at a town hall meeting where he made a derogatory comment about another member of the authority sitting a few feet away.

By Paul Whitehouse
Wednesday, 31 July, 2019, 19:51
Investigation: Comments in the council chamber have sparked complaints

Coun David Greenhough, who represents the Penistone West ward, made an immediate apology as the comment – interpreted as homophobic – generated protests from other members present at the full council meeting and Mayor Coun Pauline Markham also asked him to apologise.

But Barnsley Council has now confirmed it has received complaints about Coun Greenhough and is to investigate.

The authority has not disclosed the number or content of the complaints, but an organisation which represents sexual minority communities in the town has Tweeted: “Barnsley LGBTQ+ Forum will be making an official complaint about the language used here as it is unacceptable for an elected official to use such inflammatory language to attack anyone.

“We need community cohesion more than ever.”

Coun Alan Gardiner, Barnsley Council’s Cabinet Spokesman for Core Services, said: “We can confirm that we've received formal complaints regarding the behaviour of Penistone West councillor, David Greenhough, at the Full Council meeting on the 25 July.

"We take any instances of discriminatory behaviour seriously, and under the Localism Act 2011, we're responsible for considering and investigating any such complaints.

“We’re not in a position to comment any further at the moment,” he said.

Coun Greenhough represents the Lib Dem party and group leader Coun Hannah Kitching said a written apology had been sent to the councillor involved the morning after the incident and that he had also been disciplined internally within the Lib Dem organisation.

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She was present when Coun Greenhough spoke at the meeting, which is recorded by webcam and can be viewed via the internet, and said: “It is lucky my face wasn’t on the webcam because I am a person who wears their feelings on their face.

“David apologised immediately and the Mayor asked him to apologise. I spoke to David on Thursday evening at length. He already knew, but I disciplined him thoroughly about his use of language.

“I asked, but he was already there, to send a full apology, which he did, by email.”

The outburst was made during a debate surrounding the council’s controversial decision to build a ring road around Penny Pie Park, a green space between the town centre and M1 junction 37.

It is a decision which has divided opinion and seen a Lib Dem councillor elected to the Dodworth ward which includes the area at the same time Coun Greenhough joined the council.

His comment called into question the voting pattern of councillors outside the controlling Labour group and his comment focused on one specific councillor.

No information has been provided by Barnsley Council about how the outcome of the complaint will be decided or what sanctions may be open to the authority in such cases.