Potters Bar councillor's use of 'bent over and took it' phrase did not breach code of conduct, says county council report

PUBLISHED: 16:04 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:28 10 September 2019

Cllr Morris Bright, who represents Potters Bar West and Shenley for Herts County Council, and is the leader of Hertsmere Borough Council. Picture: Hertsmere Borough Council

Cllr Morris Bright, who represents Potters Bar West and Shenley for Herts County Council, and is the leader of Hertsmere Borough Council. Picture: Hertsmere Borough Council

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A Potters Bar county councillor's use of the phrase "bent over and took it" has been determined as "ill-judged", but not in breach of the authority's code of conduct.

MEP and Herts county councillor Barbara Gibson. Picture: Fred Marvaux/© European Union, 2019.MEP and Herts county councillor Barbara Gibson. Picture: Fred Marvaux/© European Union, 2019.

The investigation report, published today, found that the words uttered by Cllr Morris Bright were "ill-judged" due to their "ambiguous nature", but the report concluded there was insufficient evidence that the subject matter breached the code.

Cllr Bright - who represents Potters Bar West and Shenley division at county level, but is also leader of Hertsmere Borough Council - used the phrase at Herts County Council's budget debate on February 19, in reference to the Liberal Democrats.

READ MORE: Hertsmere Borough Council meeting over leader's expenses ends in shouting match

At the time, he was refering to the right of the Liberal Democrat group to criticise the Conservative-controlled council's spending proposals.

In pointing to the party's role in central government between 2010-15, when many of the cuts were made, he said: "They were in bed. They were doing whatever they needed to do, they bent over, they took it..."

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Conservative councillor Mr Bright says he used the phrase to refer to someone allowing an authority figure - be it a teacher, police officer or parent - to give a reprimand, without fighting back.

READ MORE: Leaked report on leader's expenses investigated by Hertsmere council

However, the Liberal Democrats point to a different meaning of the phrase, which they say is "sexist", "homophobic" and "offensive".

In the report, county council chief legal officer Quentin Baker said the "intended meaning is supported by the interview and other evidence".

"I also note the context was that of the annual council debate on its budget which is commonly one of the most politically charged debates of the year," Mr Baker said.

READ MORE: Leader of Hertsmere council calls probe into his expenses 'inaccurate'

Reacting to the news, Cllr Barbara Gibson - a Liberal Democrat who represents the Haldens divison of Welwyn Garden City at county council level, alongside her MEP role - said: "I was disappointed with the report's conclusions and still believe Cllr Bright should be required to apologise in the chamber, and on camera, for using language in the chamber that creates a hostile environment.

"His offence is not to me personally, but to the people of Hertfordshire."

On Friday, the findings will be presented to a meeting of the county council's standards committee.

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