Cambridge councillor quits after accusations of racism

Louise Ashwell - News Reporter 7 July 2012

After The Cambridge Student reported in June student accusations of racism against supervisor Martin Sewell, a new episode of racism has emerged in Cambridge, leading a councillor to resign from his post on an influential committee after an investigation confirmed he made racist comments against the travellers’ community.

An independent inquiry found that Cllr Mervyn Loynes, a Conservative who represents Bourn on South Cambridgeshire District Council, had failed to treat others with respect within his position as vice-chairman of the council’s planning committee. It added that he had brought his office into disrepute. Cllr Loynes also held the role of chairman of a subcommittee overseeing legal action against travellers living on unauthorised sites.

The findings were made in relation to comments made by Cllr Loynes in advance of a meeting in February at which councillors considered whether to allow pitches at Smithy Fen in Cottenham. A panel of councillors will make the final decision later this year over whether his conduct constituted a breach of equalities law, but Cllr Loynes has stepped down from his position as vice-chairman in advance of their verdict.

Loynes denies the allegations against him: “I do not agree with the allegations made against me and do not believe I have breached the council’s strict code of conduct. I have worked extremely hard as the chairman of the planning enforcement sub-committee to do a difficult job as fairly and as well as I can.”

He acknowledged, however, that his resignation owed much to fears that decisions made by the committee could face legal challenge if Loynes is found to have contravened the code of conduct.”However, it has been extremely difficult having the shadow of allegations hanging over me and I would not want to bring the office or the council into disrepute. It is for this reason that I feel it only right to give notice that I will play no further part in the planning committee.”

Cllr Ray Manning, leader of Cambridge Council, paid tribute to the councillor’s work on the planning committee. “Cllr Loynes has been an extremely hardworking and conscientious member of the planning committee. However, I understand his wish to act honourably in the circumstances and have accepted his resignation with regret.”

Cllr Loynes is expected to appear before a standards panel once a new code of conduct receives approval from councillors later this month.

Louise Ashwell – News Reporter