Friday brief: concerns about apparent lack of action from authority regarding ‘gay sin’ councillor
Plus other news including Silverstone-based construction firm set to build Cobblers stadium in financial trouble
The Labour group on North Northamptonshire Council has written to the authority’s monitoring officer about the lack of action about homophobic comments tweeted by a councillor almost two months ago.
Conservative councillor King Lawal tweeted in June that ‘Pride is a not a virtue but a sin’, going on to tell the Northants Telegraph that he thought being gay was a sin.
After his tweet Lawal was quickly expelled from the board of local charity Groundwork Northants, asked to leave the governing body of Weavers Academy in Wellingborough and also suspended from the Conservative party for a short period.
However no action has been taken against the councillor by the local authority, despite complaints lodged many weeks ago by other councillors and members of the public.
Now deputy leader of the Labour Group Leanne Buckingham, has written to the authority’s monitoring officer Adele Wylie asking her to take decisive action.
Cllr Buckingham wrote:
“We are writing to express our deep concern and disappointment regarding recent developments involving a fellow elected member of the council from the conservative group. As representatives of the Labour group, we believe it is of utmost importance to address these issues swiftly and decisively to uphold the values of inclusivity, equality, and respect that our community stands for.
“It has come to our attention that the aforementioned council member has made highly inappropriate and homophobic comments in the public sphere. Such behaviour not only contradicts the principles of tolerance and understanding that we strive to promote within our council but also undermines the trust that our constituents have placed in their elected officials to uphold their best interests.
“We call upon the monitoring office to urgently address these matters. We request a thorough investigation into the incident involving the council member's homophobic comments, in line with the council's established code of conduct and ethical guidelines. It is essential that appropriate measures are taken to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
Speaking to NN Journal Cllr Buckingham said Cllr Lawal’s anti LGBTQ comments should not have been voiced.
“This is not an inclusive society. People are allowed to be elected councillors and speak like this. It is not safe. It is making people feel unsafe.
“Comments like this make people shrink back into the shadows. It is undoing the work that Pride has been doing.”
NN Journal contacted both the council and Cllr Lawal.
The authority said:
“The council does not comment on specific complaints against elected members until such time as a conclusion is reached.
“Any complaints received are dealt with under the ‘Arrangements for dealing with allegations of breaches of North Northamptonshire Code of Conduct’. This is a process included in the Constitution which was agreed by elected members.
“This process has a number of steps including seeking the views of an Independent Person (who are neither councillors nor officers of the authority but are appointed to work with the authority to support them with Code of Conduct complaints and standards issues). This process is always robustly followed to ensure fairness. The process can be found at Code of Conduct and Complaints | North Northamptonshire Council (northnorthants.gov.uk).
However it is not clear whether any action has been taken and what stage any complaint is at. Cllr Buckingham confirmed yesterday she had not been advised as yet by the monitoring officer of any action, although will meet with her today to discuss the matter.
The authority has put on some equality training, which has been attended by Cllr Lawal.
Cllr Lawal said Cllr Buckingham’s complaint was political.
“Cllr Buckingham is an opposition councillor so of course she was going to have an issue with what I have said.
“If organisations claim inclusivity they should have a think how Christians' feel that our views are not included. Bible believing christians like myself are the ones who are under attack.
“If she [cllr Buckingham] has taken offence to what I have said, she has taken offence to the bible.”
Since he made the comments, Cllr Lawal has been positioning himself as a champion of free speech, appearing on GB news with controversial pundit Calvin Robinson, in which he said he had tweeted after seeing Pride marches with ‘distasteful and shocking scenes of naked men in the streets’.
He has also being supported by the Christian Legal centre which told us:
“Cllr Lawal has been victimised for a polite and temperate statement of the traditional Christian belief on sexual ethics and also for condemning the sin of pride. The fact that such a statement caused so much nasty backlash, with no respect for free speech, is profoundly disturbing. Criticisms of Cllr Lawal’s comments as “discriminatory” are (with all due respect) legally illiterate.”
The Anglican church is currently divided on the issue of sexuality, with some senior archbishops, such as the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell publicly declaring gay sex is not a sin.
Earlier this year the Church voted to allow priests to bless same sex partnerships but same sex marriages within the church are still not accepted. Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013. But when the law changed, the Church did not change its teaching.
Father Ben Lewis, from Queensway Church, which is in Cllr Lawal’s ward, wrote to Cllr Lawal after his tweet, expressing his personal offence at his comments.
Father Ben, who is openly gay, said this week that recently he has had an apology from Cllr Lawal for any offence caused and he will speak with him at the next councillor surgery, which is held in Father Ben’s St Mark’s Church.
News in brief:
The Silverstone-based building firm Buckingham Group Contracting has stopped trading due to ‘escalating contract losses and a sharp reduction in liquidity’.
This week Construction News reported the company, which employs hundreds of staff and has an annual turnover of more than £650m, had filed an administration notice.
The firm had been involved in the ill-fated rebuild of Northampton Town Football Club stand and according to the club’s owner Kelvin Thomas had been due to be involved in a second attempt at building the east stand.
In a statement on its website the firm said it knew the news would come as a shock, but said:
“Very strong delivery and commercial performance across most of the business has been outweighed by deep losses and interim cash deficits incurred on the three major Stadium and Arena contracts, and a substantial earthworks contract in Coventry.
“This situation on these four long term major projects developed through a combination of unexpected impacts such as the extreme inflation linked to the Ukraine conflict and other challenges in the sports and leisure division.
“Over several months and right up to this week, the board has worked with specialist advisors to seek to bring substantial new investment into the business that would have enabled the company to continue trading as a going concern without interruption. However, this initiative has ultimately met without success.
As a result of the recent challenges, the board has filed a Notice of Intention to appoint Administrators to protect the business whilst we explore a sale of all or part of the business in a very short period (days/weeks).
“We will be liaising with clients and interested parties to optimise any solution and secure the best outcome for creditors.
“We emphasise the company is currently not in administration. Our main aim at present is to seek to protect jobs, and to preserve as much of the business as possible.”
Last month the group’s managing director Ian McSeveney stood down for health reasons.
In its 2021 accounts is recorded a pre-tax loss of just under £11m.
North Northamptonshire Council’s executive has agreed to treat care experience as a protected characteristic. At yesterday’s meeting Cllr Scott Edwards, who has responsibility for children’s services, said part of the reason the authority was backing the initiative was due to the high numbers of young care leavers who are not in work, education or training.
🎈 Northampton balloon festival is taking place on Saturday from 11am to 9.30pm at the racecourse off St Georges Avenue.
🎪The Greenbelt Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will be at Boughton House near Kettering, from Thursday until next Sunday. Guests include singer Laura Mvula, food campaigner Jack Monroe, comedian Josie Long, and journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Buy tickets here