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Great Yarmouth councillor warned to mind language

PUBLISHED: 12:08 01 January 2011

A SENIOR Great Yarmouth borough councillor has been warned to watch his language when talking to the press after he slammed criticism of Yarmouth’s outer harbour as “disgusting and poisonous”.

Cllr Graham Plant, the cabinet member for regeneration and tourism, who also sits on the county council, has received a letter from the borough’s monitoring officer Chris Skinner asking him to be “mindful when speaking to the press about the potential of causing offence to the general public”.

The letter followed a complaint to the standards committee by former Yarmouth Port welfare officer John Cooper, who has criticised the harbour’s design and the lack of return on £18m of taxpayers’ money invested in the project.

Mr Cooper said the councillor’s choice of words in comments to the Mercury breached the councillors’ code of conduct by failing to treat others with respect and bringing an office or authority into disrepute.

Once a complaint is made to the council, a standards sub-committee decides whether it needs to be investigated, in which case it is referred to the monitoring officer to decide what action to take.

In this case, Mr Skinner decided that although Cllr Plant had not breached the code, a letter was needed urging him to be more careful in his use of language.

However, Mr Plant said he was unhappy with the tone of some of the public criticism, which he believed suggested some of the councillors had not followed the correct process in agreeing to give port owners Eastport £18m of taxpayers’ money for the outer harbour.

The critics have called for a public inquiry into the decision to give public money for the outer harbour project.

Mr Plant said: “It is going to be difficult to avoid causing offence because a lot of things offend different people and how do you know when you have done it? I feel some of the comments made about the harbour project were disgusting and poisonous.”

He added that if councillors had not been following the correct process then they would have been investigated by the standards committee, but this had not happened.

“We went through the proper process through regional development agency EEDA and the county council.

“The outer harbour has only been open eight months and it has got a contract with a wind energy firm to deal with 75 of the wind turbines,” Mr Plant said.

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