Complaints about a councillor’s comment that it is “time to stop the invasion of migrants and time to send a lot back” will not be investigated as a breach of the council’s code of conduct.
A sub-committee of three Milton Keynes councillors decided that even though there had been a breach of the code it was considered “very minor or trivial” and Cllr Terry Baines had apologised for the comment.
Cllr Baines referred himself to the committee. There were also complaints from Labour councillor Mohammed Khan (Bletchley East) and Oliver Balaam, who both wanted Cllr Baines to resign.
In his apology Cllr Baines (Cons, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said: “I was trying to refer to the number of illegal immigrants arriving by small boat into the country and not those that have or are entering legally.”
Speaking at a meeting of the standards assessment sub committee, Cllr Sam Crooks (Lib Dem, Broughton) said even though he found the comments “distasteful’ he thought they “reflect a significant element within the community.”
Cllr Crooks, who declared himself an “immigrant” from Northern Ireland who first came to England at the age of 11, said he believes Cllr Baines was representing a widely held view.
“I think you have to balance community leadership with the representation of those within the community,” he said.
“We ask our elected representatives not to be too bland, and if they have views to state them. Sometimes stating a view may be unpopular but nonetheless it is a legitimate view.”
He said though that Cllr Baines’s views, on issue of immigration, “may have been more tactfully or diplomatically phrased.”
The sub-committee decided that Cllr Baines’ comments may have shown disrespect and been seen as bullying.
But they did not mean the council breached its duty under equalities law to “eliminate discrimination, harassment, or victimisation”. This went counter to the advice of the committee’s independent advisor.
Cllr Norman Miles (Lab, Wolverton) disagreed with his colleagues and wanted the matter to be investigated.
“I fundamentally disagree, otherwise anyone can say what they like and then say I am sorry, I didn’t mean it, and it doesn’t matter.
“I think it’s anything but trivial. The remarks were made in a highly public forum and I can’t get anywhere near thinking they were trivial. I think they were very significant.”
Cllr Saleena Raja (Cons, Shenley Brook End), who was chairing the sub-committee, said the comments were: “Completely unacceptable and many people in the community have rightfully taken offence to this.
“However, Cllr Baines has admitted and said his intentions were not to express any racism. He confirmed he wanted to address issues of illegal immigration, not migration.”
The sub-committee agreed with Cllr Crooks that the matter be formally rejected but that “Cllr Baines showed an inappropriate lack of respect and that he endangered the reputation of the council.”
Former soldier Cllr Baines has also agreed to attend a diversity course and been stripped of his post as armed forces champion.