A councillor is being investigated after using a racist slur at a meeting, as he discussed the sale of a town’s tennis courts.
Scarborough Council cabinet member Mike Cockerill has been told to make a public apology, after using the phrase “n----- in the wood pile”.
The utterance was made as Filey Town Council talked about Southdene Tennis Courts, and left onlookers shocked – with one raising a formal complaint.
Both Cllr Cockerill, a borough and Filey town councillor, and Filey’s Mayor John Shackleton vehemently deny the gaffe had racist undertones. But at a behind-closed-doors emergency meeting, Cllr Cockerill was scolded for the slur, and ordered to make a public apology at a special meeting next Wednesday.
“I used a phrase which in hindsight should have instead been ‘throwing a spanner in the works’,” admitted Cllr Cockerill.
“Some people have taken it as having a racial connotation but it certainly wasn’t meant in that way.”
One of those people is UKIP’s Sam Cross, a political rival in Filey, whose complaint to Scarborough Council has also sparked a town hall investigation.
And another member of the public at the monthly meeting also plans on lodging a complaint with the authority.
“It might have been acceptable once, but not these days – it was a bit embarrassing,” said an onlooker.
Mr Shackleton said his authority won’t stand for racism, but added: “There’s no way I can think this remark is racially motivated in any way.
“I bet Mike could have bit his tongue out, but once it’s out of your mouth that’s it.”
Cllr Cockerill feels the complainants should have spoken out at the meeting, but the town council has now warned him over his future conduct. The harbour portfolio holder may yet face additional action from Scarborough Council, whose monitoring officer Lisa Dixon confirmed he is being investigated, adding: “It would not be appropriate to comment further until it’s concluded.”