A Sheffield councillor has been reprimanded for “insensitive and unprofessional” social media messages that included calling an unnamed opposition politician “an arrogant little s**t” - just weeks after apologising for online remarks about the death of a 15-year-old allergy sufferer.
Councillor Neale Gibson, a Labour councillor who represents the Walkley ward, was investigated by Sheffield Council after a complaint was made about comments posted on his Twitter account, which has more than 2,200 followers.
One message posted on June 8 and relating to a shout of 'rubbish' made at a council meeting read: “If it’s the LibDem Councillor I’m thinking of then they are an arrogant little s**t who should be reported to the standards board.”
In another message, he posted a picture of a pigeon inside the Sheffield Town Hall, with a message on June 25 which read: “Sheffield Council occupied again by dumb creature”. The message followed protesters who oppose the council’s tree-felling programme occupying the council chamber in February.
The council investigation concluded that the tweets “can be interpreted as insensitive and unprofessional” and therefore constitute a potential breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
It said the matter could be “best resolved” by Coun Gibson receiving “face-to-face guidance with the monitoring officer and group whip on the appropriate use of social media”.
The findings from the council’s legal director Gillian Duckworth sent to complainant Sally Goldsmith: “With reference to the comments made through @nealeggibson including the council chamber being occupied again by dumb creatures and also comments made in relation to another councillor, I understand that he may not have intended any malice but even so I recognise that his tweets could be interpreted as such out of the context of a wider conversation.
“Thus, the fact remains that these comments on social media can be interpreted as insensitive and unprofessional. I have concluded that Councillor Gibson was acting in an official capacity in his dealing with you and others on social media and therefore the Members’ Code of Conduct does apply.”
The investigation comes a month after Coun Gibson apologised for “inappropriate” comments he made about the death of a 15-year-old girl who had an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manager sandwich.
He had originally said: “I think the Pret a Manager [sic] case shows that if you have an allergy it’s your responsibility to ask the retailer if the item you are purchasing contains the ingredients you are allergic to. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the retailer to list every single ingredient.”
He was referring to the death of Natasha Ednan-Laprouse, who died in 2016 after purchasing a baguette which had no allergen advice on its wrapper. Following her inquest earlier this year, Pret have committed to fully labelling ingredients.
After his comments were described as “clearly unacceptable and extremely insensitive” by the Sheffield Labour group whip Peter Rippon, Coun Gibson tweeted that he had no intention to cause offence and was seeking to raise awareness about his concerns relating to food labelling.
Coun Gibson did not respond to repeated attempts from The Yorkshire Post to reach him for comment.