Racial slur councillor to be censured by Cheltenham council

Dennis Parsons
Image caption Dennis Parsons said he had “fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of a councillor”

A councillor who used “incredibly offensive racial slurs” at a council meeting last month is to be censured.

Liberal Democrat Dennis Parsons said the word four times at a Cheltenham Borough Council meeting on 15 June.

Councillors said censure was the “strongest available option” to them and agreed to ask the government for powers of greater sanctions.

Mr Parsons apologised and said he had “fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of a councillor”.

The comments were made during a debate to review the authority’s policies and organisational structure to challenge racial bias in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May.

Mr Parsons said he used the offensive word – the name of his family’s black cat in the 1950s – because he wanted to show “how different the culture was then”.

The council’s standards committee met to discuss Mr Parsons’ failure to comply with the code of conduct, and unanimously agreed a statement expressing severe disapproval should be issued and his formal apology be published on the council’s website.

‘Issues of racism’

Lib Dem councillor Martin Horwood said there was “considerable damage to the council’s reputation”.

“The worst of it is, that in the context of the motion, this was the council’s opportunity to make a strong statement of solidarity and support with people of colour at a time when the community is seeking allies,” he said.

“In effect, the council has done the reverse. We have highlighted issues of racism within our council as a result of these comments. The entire object of the motion on one level was lost and completely undermined by these comments.”

Mr Parsons has resigned from his role in the Cheltenham Trust, is no longer a member of any council committee and has been suspended by the local Liberal Democrat group.

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