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Ombudsman decides not to investigate councillor’s post which called Mark Drakeford ‘Fuhrer’

29 Jun 2023 3 minute read
First Minister Mark Drakeford. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Rory Sheehan, local democracy reporter

The ombudsman has decided not to investigate a Facebook post from a Flintshire Councillor who called First Minister Mark Drakeford ‘Fuhrer’.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW), which investigates alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct, received a complaint made by a member of the public that a councillor, who is not named in the report, allegedly called the First Minister ‘Fuhrer’ on Facebook, viewing this as a slur which compared the Labour party with the Nazi party.

It was alleged that the councillor’s claim that they simply used the German word for leader was not credible.

At the request of the council’s monitoring officer the councillor was persuaded to remove to post from the social media site.

But the ombudsman decided that though offensive, an investigation would not be in the public interest and could inhibit freedom of speech.

The report states: “The member clearly identified himself on Facebook as a councillor therefore the PSOW was satisfied that the Code of Conduct was engaged.

“The language used by the member, calling the First Minister ‘Fuhrer’, is offensive and not language that the ombudsman would condone. Given the context, the explanation that it was a simple translation of the word ‘leader’ lacks credibility.

“It is likely that the language used is suggestive of a breach of paragraph 4(b) of the Code of Conduct.

An investigation into this matter would not be in the public interest.

“It is not uncommon for elected members to say things about political opponents which others may consider to be rude or offensive.

“However, it is not the purpose of the code to inhibit free speech and the robust expression of political differences.”

Standards committee 

Flintshire Council’s standards committee meets on Monday for an update on ethical complaints submitted to the PSOW.

A report to be read by councillors covers complaints relative to members of Flintshire Council, and members of the county’s town and community councils.

Since the last update in January seven complaints have been received, none of which were investigated. There are still five outstanding.

The ombudsman will only investigate if there is clear evidence of a breach and it is in the public interest to do so.

One of the remaining  complaints has been made by another councillor that a social media post could be seen as a slur on their character.

Another of the complaints is from a town councillor who feels messages they were sent were threatening in nature, and the other complaint is from a member of the public for various allegations ranging from bullying to failure to declare an interest.

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