Sanctions against Hartlepool councillor to remain over ‘offensive’ Facebook posts

Recommendations have been made for sanctions to remain in place against a Hartlepool councillor who was hit with punishments after sharing ‘offensive and racist’ Facebook posts.
Coun Tony Richardson. Picture by FRANK REIDCoun Tony Richardson. Picture by FRANK REID
Coun Tony Richardson. Picture by FRANK REID

Cllr Tony Richardson, an Independent councillor, had called for himself to be allowed to sit on Hartlepool Borough Council committees again after previously being forbidden following a standards hearing last year.

It was held after Cllr Richardson was reported to have shared a post likening an immigrant trying to claim benefits to a dog, while three other offensive posts shared by the councillor were also considered in the investigation.

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At last month’s full council meeting a motion was passed for the audit and governance committee to review sanctions put in place against the councillor, which included preventing Cllr Richardson from sitting on council committees.

The audit and governance committee discussed the punishments put in place at their meeting on Thursday, and passed by three votes to two to recommend the sanctions remain in place.

Those in favour of the sanctions remaining noted how there is little time left in this municipal year until the planned local elections.

Cllr Brenda Harrison said: “It’s not very long to go, if it was another year we might review it, but it’s not, it’s a couple of months if that, so I think they should stay in place until then.”

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Cllr Brenda Loynes added if any similar scenario came up in future, sanctions should have a specific date attached to avoid this issue, but noted in this case they should remain in place, with elections scheduled in May.

She said: “There’s not much time to go now and I believe there’s very few committee meetings as well before we go into purdah.

“I have no problems with Cllr Richardson whatsoever, but I think that’s the right thing to do, to wait until May and then see what happens then.”

Councillors who wanted the sanctions removed noted how Cllr Richardson, Fens and Rossmere representative, has completed various diversity and technology training courses since apologising for the incident.

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Cllr Ged Hall said: “Over seven months ago Cllr Richardson apologised publicly for the shocking social media posts and attended diversity training and IT awareness.

“My personal viewpoint is that the sanctions on the councillor should be lifted so he can make an application to sit on committees if applicable.”

The review came after Cllr Richardson, speaking at the last full council meeting, said he wanted to challenge for seats on several committees as part of a political proportionality review.

He said: “I would like to humbly request, as I have now completed my equality and diversity training along with some information and technology upskilling sessions, that full council ask the audit and governance committee to review the sanctions applied to me in 2020.

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“You know I have attended every committee meeting that I have been able to, which is the vast majority of them, in the public galleries.

“I feel that a review of the sanctions may help me represent the constituency better as an elected member.

“With the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the fact that May 2020 elections have been postponed, making it likely it may happen again, I believe that a review of the sanctions applied would be a fair and reasonable request.”

When the initial standards hearing was held into Cllr Richardson’s posts last year, he apologised for any offence caused and stressed he is not a racist, but was ‘significantly careless and naive’, attributing the posts to his difficulties using social media.

The report will now go back to the next meeting of full council for all councillors to note the findings and for any further discussion.

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