Banbury councillor asked to withdraw unedifying remark after calling opponent 'an incredibly small man in more ways than one'
Councillor Eddie Reeves (Con, Banbury Calthorpe), leader of the opposition at Oxfordshire County Council, was invited to take back a comment in which he referred to Councillor Tim Bearder (Lib Dem, Wheatley) as “an incredibly small man in more ways than one”.
Cllr Reeves withdrew the remark but embarked on a spiky exchange with one of the council’s most senior officials, monitoring officer Anita Bradley, who had raised the matter at the end of a council meeting.
Every council has a monitoring officer to oversee the lawfulness and fairness of decision making, report on poor administration or anything they believe to be illegal and ensure councillors and council employees operate within the rules. They are widely regarded as an authority’s primary source of advice on legal issues.
The comments emanated from the debate of Cllr Reeves’s motion on scrapping lunches at council meetings, something rival parties dismissed as a back-door way of railing against the controversial decision to provide only vegan food.
Councillor Liam Walker (Con, Hanborough & Minster Lovell) took aim at political rivals serving across different authorities, accusing Cllr Bearder of wearing “so many hats in different councils he cannot sit upright in his seat”.
Cllr Reeves followed that by saying: “For a change I am going to say something polite about Councillor Bearder, he is in fact sitting up straight in his chair, he is just an incredibly small man in more ways than one.”
Council footage shows deputy leader of the opposition Councillor Donna Ford (Con, Bicester North) and fellow Conservative councillors Nigel Simpson (Kirtlington & Kidlington North) and Nick Leverton (Carterton South & West) laughing immediately after the comment.
It happened during the discussion of what was the penultimate motion of the day with Ms Bradley addressing the meeting after the final motion had been voted on around half an hour later.
She said: “There have been a couple of comments this afternoon about respecting one another and I would remind all members that they are responsible for the ethical governance within the organisation, as well as myself as the council’s monitoring officer.
“There has been a personal comment made and I would just like to give Councillor Reeves this opportunity to withdraw that comment.”
She went on to clarify that it was the comment aimed at Cllr Bearder to which Cllr Reeves replied: “Happy to withdraw.”
Addressing Ms Bradley, Cllr Reeves continued: “Perhaps you would be so good as to ask Councillor (Charlie) Hicks (Lab, Cowley) to withdraw the comment about us (Conservative councillors) being hypocrites – 21 of us, I think.”
Cllr Reeves continued to speak as Ms Bradley attempted to respond but his comments were not picked up by the council’s sound system.
She said: “I have made my point that all members are responsible for ethical governance… Can you please allow me to speak?
“I go absolutely straight down the line, I make absolutely no political points whatsoever and from my observation of the meeting and the conduct, it deteriorated. I am making my point.”