AN ALLEGATION that a leading councillor was caught on camera using “offensive” language to describe a resident at an angry public meeting about the Greenbelt is being investigated by the council.
Councillor Kevin Maton, cabinet member for business, enterprise and employment, is alleged to have described one of the speakers, who has asked to remain anonymous, as a “stupid ignorant t***” under his breath.
Unbeknown to him, the meeting was being recorded on the speaker’s wife’s phone in close proximity, as her husband spoke. It has now been sent for council monitoring officer Christine Forde to investigate a formal complaint.
The fractious November 7 meeting at Allesley village Scout’s HQ in Washbrook Lane organised by Allesley Parish Council saw 300 residents up in arms over proposals to release green fields nearby to help build at least 23,500 new homes by 2031.
Council leaders claim it will make Coventry a “top ten city’ again, and produce vital income from Council Tax to support heavily cut council services.
A second formal complaint has been lodged about Coun Maton’s Twitter account after he tweeted that the un-named speaker had made inappropriate comments about immigration, the poor state of inner city housing, and that the speaker was a UKIP supporter.
All of these allegations are strenuously denied by the speaker.
Asked by the Observer if he could have used “offensive” language, Coun Maton refused to deny it, instead saying: “I am amazed that our officers remain as tolerant as they do.
“Sometimes I wish I had their patience.”
The speaker who has lodged the complaints added: “I had conducted weeks of in-depth research and that was dismissed in an offensive and abusive manner by a councillor, which really upset my wife and me.
“I was making the point that Coventry’s population has increased from around 300,000 in 2000 to 329,000 mainly because of migration and immigration, according to the council’s own facts, and if growth continues at that rate as the council hopes it will be 430,900 by 2033.
“I also used the council’s own research showing 34.9 per cent of private sector properties are unfit, and argued new homes should first be built in regenerated poorer central parts of the city, not the Greenbelt.
“I also object to the slur by Coun Maton that I must be a UKIP supporter if I express such concerns. I am not.”
Heated relations between the council and Greenbelt campaigners has also resulted in a council legal complaint to Keresley Parish Council’s website, where there is vociferous opposition to proposals for thousands more homes on green fields.
Ms Forde, the council’s top solicitor, wrote a letter to the parish council which requested they take down “campaigning” material concerning city politicians, including leading Labour councillor David Kershaw.
The letter alleges the parish council could have breached legal requirements that local authority websites must not be unbalanced in political campaigning.
Sandra Camwell of Keresley Parish Council described the letter as ‘bully boy tactics’.
She said: “We were being open, transparent and honest with people. They’re trying to pick a battle with a parish council that’s defending the people of this area.”