A Pendle councillor is facing disciplinary action after an alleged Nazi slur.
Complaints were lodged against Cllr Tony Greaves, who sits on Pendle Borough Council, after a meeting at Colne Town Hall with the Colne and District Committee on August 8 this year where he labelled a member of the public a Nazi.
During the meeting, an item of business was discussed to consider a planning application for extensions and alterations at the former St Bartholomew’s School, Exchange Street, Colne.
The application had been submitted by the Madina Mosque and had been the subject of local controversy. An online petition with over 1,300 signatures against the development had been submitted and there had been a demonstration in Colne town centre a few weeks previously.
The first complaint was made by Craig McBeth, who is chairman of UKIP Burnley and Pendle, immediately after the meeting.
He said: "On Thursday at the Colne and District Council Meeting, Cllr Lord Tony Greaves insulted a member of the public in an unprovoked attack - calling him a "Nazi" with no justification. These comments and insults from Lord Greaves are wholly out of keeping with the conduct of a councillor and a severe breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors. As a longstanding politician, Lord Greaves thinks he is beyond reproach and that he can say what he likes and treat constituents with severe contempt and disdain.
"The Nazis were vicious murderers who slaughtered millions of people - this gentleman at the meeting has killed no one, and was merely filming a public meeting (as allowed). The language of Lord Greaves is disgusting and has no place in a council chamber, but sadly no other Councillors called him out on it. However I hope this complaints procedure is robust enough to deal with abuse comments to the public.
"Please take note of the timeline of events too... the gentleman filming had made no comments nor disturbed the meeting until provoked by the inflammatory and highly offensive comment made by Lord Greaves. Is this something the Council condones, can we just go around insulting people and incorrectly slurring them, or does the Council take its Code of Conduct seriously and how it should behave. I hope so... but your conclusion and action (or lack of) will be the evidence."
Mr McBeth called on the council to suspend Cllr Lord Greaves and on August 11 he posted a Facebook video showing the incident.
On August 14, an article appeared which included a quote from Cllr Greaves which said: "Yes I did call him a Nazi, because he is one. He was exhibiting Nazi sympathies and there was aggressive and thuggish nature from the people stood behind us. They then blew up completely and had to be removed by police."
The following day, the council received another complaint from Karl Hopkins. He said: "Whilst attending a planning meeting held at Colne Town Hall on Thursday August 8, I was called a Nazi twice by a gentleman I later found to be both a Lord of the realm and a councillor! Whilst I found this insult to be hugely offensive, my offence has dissipated into disgust that not only Lord Tony Greaves finds it acceptable to dish out damaging insults at will with no consequence, but so does Colne Council!!!
"Not only did I find these insults to be personally offensive, I now find that he is fabricating a defence in the media by implying that I was a follower of a Mr Mcbeth who he accuses of causing trouble and hatred around the town. I can assure you that previous to that meeting I did now who Mr Mcbeth was. I would also point out that soon after Mr Mcbeth started to speak, a gentleman stood behind him was motioning his fingers across his throat as a gesture I believe was to cut his speech off.
"This was supposed to be a democratic meeting with any objections delivered in a calm, professional manner! So I ask the question, why was Tony Butterworth [in fact this appears to be Councillor Neil Butterworth] allowed to speak in an angry intimidating manner? This was while Mr Butterworth was slating the objections brought to Mr McBeth’s attention by way of petition. No matter what anger Mr Butterworth brought to the table Lord Greaves had absolutely no reason, no right to call me a Nazi. I find Lord Greaves behaviour totally and utterly disgusting!
"Resolution requested: As a result of this I want an official personal written apology from Lord Greaves! I want an official written apology from the council for allowing this behaviour to emerge while I was observing my democratic right to be in that meeting."
Two more complaints were also lodged from members of the public. Rose Berry attended the council meeting and said "I thought it was disgusting and walked out."
Peter Tapper later complained saying: "You must always treat people with respect, including the organisations and public you engage with and those you work alongside. Calling some a Nazi in print is not right."
An investigation was launched into the complaints made.
Monitoring Officer at Pendle Council, Philip Mousdale, found that 'there is sufficient evidence of a failure to comply with the code of conduct'.
In a report, Mousdale said: "There are two complaints here. The first is the calling of Karl Hopkins a Nazi at the meeting itself. The second is the repetition of that word and the further related comments which then appeared in the press article. The backdrop was the planning application and the controversy it generated.
"The antagonism between Councillor Greaves and Craig McBeth was also a feature. However this is not really the issue. Karl Hopkins was not involved in any of this. There is no doubt he was entitled to film the meeting. He did not speak or other wise get involved in the meeting until the incident when he defended his right to do so. No doubt Councillor Greaves considered his wearing of the Tommy Robinson T-shirt to be indicative of his political views and that the position where he was standing was inflammatory.
"In my view the word Nazi has an unequivocal meaning. It is likening someone to a member of the German political party led by Adolf Hitler which committed great atrocities. It is not a catch all to criticise opposing even extremist political views. It is unacceptable and disrespectful for a councillor to use it towards a member of the public in a meeting.
Pendle Council told LancsLive: "As this case will be considered by the Standards Hearing Panel in the New Year it’s inappropriate for Pendle Council to comment at this stage."