Agenda item

Complaint Against a Councillor - Reference 20/16

Confidential report to follow


The Committee considered a report of the Deputy Monitoring Officer in respect of a complaint made against Councillor Flewitt by Councillor Dent on 5 July 2020 (reference 20-016).


The complaint alleged that Councillor Flewitt had breached the Members’ Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by “liking” the following Facebook comment which had been made in response to a newspaper article he had shared entitled “Huawei faces 5G ban within months”: “Great news. I wouldn’t trust them with sweet and sour dog, let alone our security infrastructure”. 


The Committee conducted a Hearing in accordance with the Complaints against Members Rules.


Councillor Flewitt was invited to attend the Hearing but sent his apologies.

A barrister who had been engaged to investigate the complaint (“the Investigator”) presented his report which concluded that the act of “liking” the comment was disrespectful to people of Chinese ethnicities and in clear breach of Paragraph 3.1 of the Code.


The Committee carefully considered the matter and the information before them, and sought and took into consideration the views of the Independent Person.




1. The Committee agreed with the conclusions of the Investigator and was satisfied that Councillor Flewitt had breached section 3.1 of the Code: “You must treat others with respect.”


2. The Committee considered that Councillor Flewitt had multiple opportunities to engage and that if he had done so, this may have seen the matter resolved through an apology or other means without the need to expend resources for a full investigation and Hearing.


3. That the appropriate sanction to be applied was that Councillor Flewitt be publicly censured for his breach of the Code.


4. The Committee apologises on behalf of the Council to people of Chinese ethnicity and heritage and the community generally, and places on record that it in no way endorses or supports the comment liked by Councillor Flewitt. The Committee would welcome a similar statement from Councillor Flewitt (together with the removal of the offending post on Facebook).


5. The Committee endorsed the following statement of the Chair:


The Council is elected by the residents of Southend.  As such the Standards Committee will be steadfast in protecting residents’ interests.  To which end the Council should adhere to proper ethics.  This was highlighted when the Standards Committee recently looked to the drafting of a new Protocol, which was passed by Council in December 2020.  This was voted for by the Conservative Group as well. 


The Protocol recognises a commitment to the upholding of standards of conduct in public life (the Nolan Principles), to demonstrate that local government is serious about protecting and enhancing its integrity and reputation.


It is unfortunate Councillor Flewitt has not turned up tonight and has not fully engaged with the investigation process. 


I also feel it is regrettable that the Conservative Councillors of the Standards Committee have not engaged with the standards procedures. This I view was a missed opportunity to show residents of our commitment to these areas. I feel this is a disappointing outcome.”


6. On the basis of there being a finding that Councillor Flewitt has breached the Code of Conduct, and that the sanction to be applied is public censure, this decision of the Standards Committee will be published in full once the Chair has been consulted on the wording.



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