Coventry & Warwickshire

Stratford politicians rapped in 'good breeding hips' comment probe

Peter Barnes and John Fielding Image copyright Stratford on Avon District Council
Image caption Peter Barnes and John Feilding's behaviour was found to bring the council into disrepute

A councillor told a colleague that if she wanted fertility support he would perform a pagan ritual for her, an investigation into his conduct found.

He told the same woman she had "good breeding hips" and blamed his age and "the wrong tablets" for his actions.

The probe into behaviour at Stratford-on-Avon District Council was launched after complaints, with another man said to have stroked a woman's neck.

Both councillors have apologised and been told to attend training courses.

The local authority said the investigation followed concerns raised by a former employee, with five councillors scrutinised.

According to a council report, her complaints originated in a private Facebook message that was "leaked into the public domain".

She described a sexist culture, citing examples including the "hips" comment.

That specific complaint - and one about the pagan ritual offer - pertained to Peter Barnes, 78.

The council also investigated complaints Mr Barnes engaged in sexual innuendo and sexist language with female staff, "behaving in a way" that made them "feel uncomfortable" and wish "to avoid him".

Image caption Both councillors have issued a written apology to employees

The report found the evidence against him was "overwhelming" and his behaviour "longstanding", rejecting "wrong tablets" and his being of an "older generation" as an excuse.

"Comments about good breeding hips are hardly likely to enhance the [council's] profile," it concluded, finding Mr Barnes to have breached the council's code of conduct, bringing it into disrepute.

The same conclusion was reached over 74-year-old colleague John Feilding.

In addition to stroking a council officer's neck, complaints included invading female staff's personal space, and telling a worker about his sexual health.

The report found "overwhelming" evidence of "unacceptable behaviour", adding female staff "do not like to be with" him.

Both have submitted a written apology to all employees. A Conservative Party spokesperson said Mr Feilding had had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

Two more unnamed councillors have been cleared of any wrongdoing, while a fifth continues to be investigated.

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