I was very surprised when the cabinet member leading the search for suitable gypsy and traveller sites in Monmouthshire was caught inflaming the debate by linking a public meeting in Magor to the Holocaust.
Cllr Sara Burch, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities tweeted that Magor councillor Frances Taylor and David TC Davies MP were ‘whipping up anti-traveller feeling’ referring to their attendance at a public meeting expertly chaired by Cllr Taylor. I attended this meeting also and can say it as well chaired and the debate was calm, respectful and focussed on the threat of further development and loss of open green spaces in the community.
This tweet might have been a brief lapse in judgement firing off an angry tweet in the heat of the moment, but the tweet wasn’t deleted for over a week.
I‘m appalled that a senior cabinet member could make baseless and malicious accusations against another councillor and our MP who both attended that public meeting to listen to the views of residents. And to link attendance at a public meeting with the extermination of thousands of Roma gypsies during the Holocaust is truly awful.
When I spoke out against the way PartyGate was being handled by Boris Johnson I said that when mistakes are made the best thing you can do is apologise and try to make amends.
While many residents from the Magor with Undy community have made formal complaints to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales about this behaviour, neither Cllr Taylor nor David Davies have received an apology for what is a baseless and malicious allegation.
It is so important that humanity continues to remember the Holocaust and learn from it, but it should never be trivialised in this way.
I know many Labour Party supporters will be disturbed by the original tweet and by the fact the Party’s local leadership seem to be brushing it under the carpet instead of either sacking or suspending Cllr Burch from her cabinet role.
As a councillor I have got to know many of the Labour councillors and they’re good people – I think privately they will be disappointed at the way this has handled, which gives the impression that the behaviour is acceptable.
I cannot see how Cllr Burch can continue to lead the search for suitable gypsy and traveller sites, having lowered the tone of the debate to offensive false allegations and hyperbole.
I believe she has breached the councillors’ code of conduct and I call on her to step down from her role.