Harrogate council leader condemns 'shocking' parish councillor who called for White Lives Matter protest

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has condemned the "shocking" actions of a parish councillor who called for a White Lives Matter protest on social media.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 1:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 1:44 pm
Parish councillor ErnestButler (left) and Harrogate council leader Richard Cooper (right).

Ernest Butler - a member of Darley and Menwith Parish Council in Nidderdale - last month had a number of complaints over posts he made on Facebook.

Sharing a video of violent protests in the US following the death of George Floyd in police custody, the 49-year-old posted: "What part of this is a peaceful protest or Black Lives Matter. So let’s do White Lives Matter."

Harrogate Borough Council said at the time its code of conduct does not apply to councillors when they use social media in a personal capacity - and no action was taken against Coun Butler.

At a meeting last night, the borough council was criticised by a Lib Dem councillor for taking a "do nothing" approach.

Council leader Richard Cooper responded: "There is a legal position here about what the borough council can and can't do.

"If I was Darley and Menwith Parish Council, I would have thought twice about co-opting this gentleman in the first place and I'd certainly be putting pressure on him to stand down."

Coun Butler previously said his job as a night shift worker at Nidd Hall was at risk because of the comments he made online.

He also said his social media posts were "taken out of context" and that he supports all equality movements.

"I am not racist whatsoever. I have not got anything against the protests or anything like that", he previously said.

"I just say it how it is. If something does come up and it is proven by law that what I said is racist, I will stand up and apologise".

A spokesman for Darley and Menwith Parish Council said: "I feel it is important to reiterate that comments made by Mr Butler were made as an individual, in a personal capacity, and not by Darley and Menwith Parish Council.

"Darley and Menwith Parish Council has no remit to deal with complaints in relation to the behaviour of councillors. Harrogate Borough Council is exclusively responsible for receiving, investigating and deciding any code of conduct complaints which relate to the members of parish councils."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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