The senior Labour councillor leading the search for gypsy and traveller sites in Monmouthshire is facing calls to resign over a tweet linking a public meeting in Magor with the extermination of Roma gypsies during the Holocaust.
Cllr Sara Burch, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities, accused Magor West councillor Frances Taylor and Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies MP of ‘whipping up anti-traveller feeling’ in the community.
The "grossly offensive" tweet was sent at 8.30pm on 2nd August, while a public meeting in Magor Baptist Church was still underway, chaired by Cllr Frances Taylor and attended by David TC Davies MP, Conservative Group Leader Cllr Richard John from Mitchel Troy and Trellech, Cllr Lisa Dymock from Portskewett and around 200 residents from the community of Magor with Undy.
The Council is currently investigating the suitability of two sites in the community – Langley Close in Magor and Dancing Hill in Undy. A cross party committee held last month concluded that none of the shortlisted sites were suitable and that the Labour administration should go back to the drawing board. At a cabinet meeting a week later, Cllr Sara Burch made a statement removing two sites in Mitchel Troy and a site in Manson near Monmouth from further consideration but announced further evaluation of the sites in Magor and Undy along with a call to the public to suggest sites.
Cllr Burch retweeted a tweet from Travelling Ahead commemorating the Roma & Sinti Holocaust, where up to half a million men, women and children were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered. Many were sent to concentration camps including Dachau and Auschwitz, where on 2nd August 1944 thousands of prisoners were murdered in the gas chambers.
Cllr Burch’s retweet carried the words: ‘Shameful that on this day @frances4magor and @DavidTCDavies were out whipping up anti-traveller feeling in #magorwithundy in advance of consultation about future sites
“The Council’s Code of Conduct is clear that elected members should not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing the authority into disrepute.
A number of Magor and Undy residents have written to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales asking for an investigation into Cllr Burch’s tweet.
Leader of the Conservative Group on Monmouthshire County Council Richard John has written to the Labour Leader Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby asking for her to take action against her cabinet member.
Cllr Richard John said, “I am appalled that a senior cabinet member could make baseless and malicious accusations against another councillor and our MP who both attended that public meeting to listen to the views of residents.
“To link attendance at a public meeting with the extermination of thousands of Roma gypsies during the Holocaust is horrific, but to do so purely for narrow partisan interests is despicable.
“The debate around finding suitable sites for the gypsy and traveller community should be conducted in a calm, measured and respectful way and focussed on the suitability of sites, access and environmental concerns rather than prejudices.
“Councillors have a responsibility as role models and leaders in their communities to set the highest possible standards of integrity. I attended this public meeting to offer support to residents and can attest to the professional and sensitive way in which the debate was led at the meeting in Magor.
MP David TC Davies said : “If Cllr Burch had bothered to attend the meeting herself she would have found it to have been full of local people expressing legitimate concerns. There was certainly no “hate speech”. Her statement was a lie and I would like her to retract it and apologise.”