Cabinet member ordered to say sorry after breaching code of conduct

A member of Dudley Council’s cabinet has been ordered to apologise after he breached the authority’s code of conduct while debating Christmas lights.

Cllr Dr Rob Clinton appeared before the council’s standards sub-committee on March 18 where he was found to have failed to treat other councillors or the public with respect during the heated debate at a community forum meeting in November 2022.

However, the Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood Conservative councillor, who has so far declined to say sorry, remains defiant. Following the meeting Cllr Clinton would not confirm whether he would obey a written instruction to apologise to the community forum chairperson, Cllr Jackie Cowell. Cllr Clinton said:

“The outcome could have been different. If they send me a letter I will send her a letter, if I’m going to apologise it should be to Cllr Cowell first.”

The dispute began after new rules on funding caused confusion and led to an exchange of emails to Quarry Bank councillors including Cllr Clinton ahead of the community forum about Christmas lighting poles in the High Street. The emails asked councillors to support one of four options, Cllr Clinton did not express a preference and then spotted what he believed to be an error in the option preferred by his fellow ward councillors.

Cllr Clinton felt the error meant just six Christmas lights would go up rather than nine and insists he was trying to highlight the error to the public.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Clinton said:

“If I had not been so robust we would not have had nine Christmas lights so if I have to send a letter to Cllr Cowell that is a small price to pay.”

In a report for the standards committee, independent investigator Barbara Beardwell quotes volunteer liaison officer Jackie Scott who said in evidence that Councillor Clinton was ‘loud, on his feet, commanding the audience and creating an argumentative atmosphere’, she added he ‘moved from his seat toward the front getting closer to the Chair’.

Cllr Clinton says he moved his chair to the side to not block the view of people sitting behind and told the standards committee he tends to speak with a loud voice because he suffers from tinnitus. Ms Beardwell’s report said:

“By this time there was a lot of shouting from other persons present at the meeting, and Councillor Cowell lost control of the meeting which degenerated into a shouting match.

“I find that while this was not all due to Councillor Clinton, this was encouraged by Councillor Clinton’s behaviour.”

The community forum’s vice chair, Cllr Catherine Bayton (Labour), eventually restored order and submitted a formal complaint to the council. A complaint was also registered on the evening of the forum from Pam Mason, leader of a local Brownie group who said: “We entered the room and wondered what we had walked into. There were voices raised, shouting and no respect for the other attendees.”

Cllr Clinton told the standards committee he believes Cllr Bayton’s complaint was politically motivated and added: “One member of the public complained out of 30, it puts that into perspective.”

Ms Beardwell’s investigation concluded Cllr Clinton had failed to treat councillors and members of the public with respect. The conclusion prompted the council’s monitoring officer, Mohammed Farooq, to ask the cabinet member for climate change if he accepted his conduct was unacceptable and would he apologise.

On February 5, Cllr Clinton replied to Mr Farooq saying: “The debate can sometimes be very intense and robust as it was on this occasion. However, elected members should not be chastised by an opposition for simply showing passion for their argument, residents and beliefs.”

His reply triggered the meeting of the standards committee who agreed with the conclusions of the investigation and told Cllr Clinton to apologise.


Add a comment

Rating *

Recently Played


  • Available on the App Store
  • Available on Google Play

Useful Links


Travel News

How To Listen

Latest Podcasts

92.2 / 102.5 FM
'Play Black Country Radio'