Cabinet member aplogises for remark

CABINET members at South Cambridgeshire District Council have been given cultural awareness training after one councillor made an offensive remark about travellers. Although the remark took place more than two years ago, a report into the incident by th

CABINET members at South Cambridgeshire District Council have been given cultural awareness training after one councillor made an "offensive remark" about travellers.

Although the remark took place more than two years ago, a report into the incident by the Standards Board for England has just been released.

SCDC said as a result of the "regrettable incident" it had "strengthened its race equality scheme" and made a commitment to ensure everyone - including travellers - is treated fairly and justly.

The comments were made by Councillor Deborah Roberts, cabinet member and housing portfolio holder at a private meeting in 2004.

As well as making an offensive remark about travellers, Cllr Roberts was also said to have sent "disrespectful and threatening" e-mails to a senior officer and "berated a senior officer in the earshot of colleagues."

It was also alleged that Cllr Roberts misused SCDC's resources by repeatedly destroying posters promoting the council's code of conduct.

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Cllr Roberts told The Hunts Post the remark and the e-mails had surrounded talks with travellers in Cottenham. She said the gist of the remark she had made was that if she had cancer she would strap a bomb to herself and go down to the travellers site. In explaining why she had made the comment, she said: "I lost it for a second. The atmosphere was very tense at the meeting and people were under a lot of pressure. I do not defend the remark but when I said it I was very stressed and I did not mean it. It will never happen again."

Although Cllr Roberts was found to have been 'disrespectful to travellers', the Standards Board concluded that no disciplinary action was needed.

A spokesman for the council said: "SCDC deeply regrets an offensive remark about travellers, which was made by a councillor at a meeting in December 2004.

"We would like to apologise for the offence that this remark has caused."

As a result of the comment, cabinet members have attended workshops on 'traveller issues', been given a tour of traveller sites and supported local productions by a Romany theatre company.

Cllr Roberts intends to apologise at the full council meeting tomorrow. SCDC has said there are no plans for Cllr Roberts to resign.

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