UPDATE: The councillor that found himself at the centre of not one, but two media storms over “outrageous and grossly insensitive' statements about disabled children has finally resigned.
Cornwall Council has today received a letter from Collin Brewer confirming that he has formally resigned as the Member for the Wadebridge East electoral division.
The resignation takes effect from Wednesday, 10 July, the date the written confirmation was received by the Council’s Monitoring Officer.
The Council’s electoral service will now be making arrangements for a by election to be held.
UPDATE: According to one councillor, Andrew Wallis, "subject to the paperwork", Mr Brewer intends to resign. Cornwall Council has yet to receive a written resignation from Mr Brewer, however the council's leader has also said he was going to resign.
Cornwall Council has found that “outrageous and grossly insensitive remarks” made by councillor Collin Brewer were a serious breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct, however it is powerless to suspend him.
The decision notice follows a formal investigation carried out by Cornwall Council into comments made by Councillor Collin Brewer during an interview with the Disability News Network.
It has condemned his remarks as both outrageous and grossly insensitive and entirely inconsistent with the standards expected of a Cornwall Councillor.
The Council’s Monitoring Officer has concluded that the comments constitute a serious breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
A senior lawyer was appointed by the Council’s Monitoring Officer to carry out the investigation after the authority received more than 180 complaints about the comments from members of the public and disability groups.
The report setting out the findings of the investigation was considered by the Council’s Standards Committee at the end of June. The members of the Committee then gave their views to the Monitoring Officer to help inform his final determination of the complaints.
Although Councillor Brewer has been found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct, the Council does not have the legal power to remove him from his position as a Councillor.
The authority previously had the ability to suspend councillors following the investigation and determination of Code of Conduct complaints, however, following the Government’s changes to the Code of Conduct complaints process, this sanction is no longer available.
Given the seriousness of the breach the Monitoring Officer has imposed the highest level of sanctions currently available to the Council.
These include formally censuring councillor Brewer for the outrageous and grossly insensitive remarks he made in the telephone conversation with John Pring on May 8 and directing him to make a formal apology for the gross offensiveness of his comments and the significant distress they caused.
Following the publication of the original article on the Disability News Network website in May the Leaders of all the political groups on the Council issued a statement condemning Councillor Brewer’s remarks as completely unacceptable and contrary to the Council’s policy of supporting all people with disabilities.
A council spokesman said: "We recognise the strength of feeling on this sensitive issue and share the frustrations of members of the public over the limited sanctions at our disposal. The Monitoring Officer has made it clear that if the powers had still been available to the Council he would have either recommended that Councillor Brewer be suspended or referred the matter to the First Tier Tribunal who would have had wider powers of sanction available to them.
Richard Williams, head of legal, democratic and procurement services and monitoring officer for Cornwall Council said: "Whilst those are extremely serious measures, in exceptional cases, such measures are justified and there is no doubt that the absence of those powers has been a source of frustration to the Standards Committee and a source of disbelief to many of those who have complained and the wider public."
"This view is supported by members of the Council’s Standards Committee who are recommending that the Council writes to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Committee for Standards in Public Life expressing the Council’s concern over the removal of the authority’s power to impose meaningful sanctions in response to breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
The decision added that such comments are "entirely inconsistent with the standards expected of a Cornwall councillor and have brought the council and the office of a Cornwall councillor into disrepute and have caused damage to the reputation of Cornwall itself".
Councillor Brewer is to make a formal apology "as to the gross offensiveness of his comments and for the significant distress they have caused".
Training will be arranged for Mr Brewer on the Code of Conduct and in dealing with the media.
While Mr Brewer remains a member of Cornwall Council he should not be allocated a seat on any of the Council’s Committees that deal or might deal with issues relating to disabled children or other vulnerable members of the community.
Mr Brewer should not be nominated as the Council’s representative to any outside bodies that are involved in the provision of services or support to disabled children or other vulnerable members of the community, either as their principal purpose or as part of their routine business.
Councillor Brewer will not have access to those parts of council premises from where services to disabled children are directly provided, managed or commissioned.