A MOTION of tolerance, and against prejudice and racism, has been supported by Ledbury Town Council, but only after the proposer was strongly challenged over her own behaviour towards fellow councillors and council staff.

This took place at a meeting of the full council, in the community hall.

The motion was proposed by Cllr Liz Harvey who, with Cllr Andrew Harrison, was accused earlier this year of bullying, intimidating and harassing staff. These accusations were upheld in March, following an investigation by fellow councillors.

At last week's full town council meeting, Cllr Bob Barnes refused to participate in the vote in any way.

Speaking before the vote he said he considered the motion to be "a political statement" and he added: "In my opinion, actions speak louder than words.

"Unfortunately, the actions of the proposer, during the last three years, do not match the sentiments made in the statement. Through her relentless campaign of intimidation, bullying and hatred towards this council, its councillors and, most significantly, our office staff, it is hardly an example of tolerance."

Cllr Barnes added: "If Cllr Harvey were to renounce her actions, so as to comply with the sentiments expressed within the motion, then I would consider supporting it; but that is highly unlikely.

"Presented by her, this motion is the epitome of hypocrisy and I will not cast a vote on it."

Cllr Martin Eager, also speaking at the meeting said; "I have similar views as Cllr Barnes. I'm not happy about supporting this motion.

"I can't be called racist; I have a coloured child. I agree with Cllr Barnes; this is a political statement."

But Cllr Harrison asked how the motion could be a political statement "when the wording is the same as the motion passed by Herefordshire Council".

Cllr Noel Roberts said he would vote in favour of the motion, because he agreed with the sentiments.

But he also said of Cllr Harvey being the proposer: "It's rank hypocrisy. They hold most of the town councillors and the staff in contempt."

Cllr Andrew Warmington, who had seconded Cllr Harvey's motion said: "For the record, I do not hold fellow councillors in contempt."

Cllr Jayne Roberts said she would support the motion "as an individual", but she added: "It's a pity it was proposed by someone who has no respect for her fellow councillors and has done little to promote harmony in the council."

Ledbury's mayor, Cllr Debbie Baker said she agreed with the sentiments of the motion, because she has two half-Indian children.

But Cllr Annette Crowe, who abstained with the vote, said: "If we put out statements like this, people will think there's a major problem in Ledbury, when there isn't."

She offered to display the words of the motion in her shop, as a personal statement, and she said: "I can say, hand on heart, I don't have a racist bone in my body".

The motion contains the words: "This council continues to promote and celebrate difference and we condemn all forms of racism, xenophobia and hate crime".

In commending the motion, Cllr Harvey said: "I will refrain from responding to the personal remarks made during this debate. This is not the place for that."

The motion was passed with 11 in favour, one against and two abstentions, and with Cllr Barnes refusing to participate in the vote at all.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Harvey said: "Herefordshire Council’s independent investigation into complaints against Ledbury Town Councillors continues and I shall not make any comment until this investigation has been concluded.

"The matters under investigation are the result of concerted efforts made by a number of councillors over many months to have genuine issues of concern recognized and addressed by Ledbury Town Council. Although I have played a part in trying to bring these matters to the council’s attention, at no point have I exhibited the intemperate language, or resorted to the personal abuse and invective to which I and others were subjected last Thursday."