During a debate on racial bias in an online Cheltenham Borough Council meeting on the 15th of June, Lib Dem councillor for Pittville - Dennis Parsons, repeatedly used a racist word when recalling an anecdote from his childhood.
The use of that word and related statements were completely unacceptable, and I immediately received a number of complaints from fellow Lib Dem councillors. I spoke to Dennis on Monday evening and discussed the incident in detail. Dennis has subsequently issued an apology.
While I accept that Dennis did not set out to cause offence, that in itself is not enough to excuse the use of such language, and as Liberal Democrats we expect our members and councillors to behave with the utmost sensitivity to racial and cultural issues.
When institutional and unconscious bias is a daily reality for the black community, along with the appalling incidents of overt racism and violence that continue to blight society on both sides of the Atlantic, we all have a duty to choose our words with care and sensitivity at all
Senior figures within the local Party have requested that Dennis consider his position and resign. He has not chosen to follow that path, and as a result complaints procedures have been initiated locally within the Cheltenham Liberal Democrat party and council group, and in parallel, a separate complaint has also been lodged with the national party HQ.
I will be working closely with relevant bodies to ensure that these complaints are dealt with fairly and as a matter of urgency.
Chair, Cheltenham Liberal Democrats