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The Northern Echo
By Jill Neill
6:01am Thursday 14th December 2006
A COUNCILLOR has apologised for swearing and lunging at a political opponent during a heated meeting.
Councillor David Morton was restrained and led from the Richmondshire District Council debating chamber, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, by the chairman.
Tempers flared after a vote to cut staffing budgets to cover a possible compensation claim from a senior officer, who alleges bullying by members.
Coun Morton’s outburst came as he defended his wife, Wendy, also a councillor but who was not at the meeting, against allegations by Councillor Richard Dunn that she had failed to apologise to the officer.
The incident on Tuesday was the latest in a bitter internal row over allegations that chief executive Harry Tabiner and monitoring officer Margaret Barry were bullied.
The authority has agreed to cut £100,850 from its staffing budget to cover a possible legal claim by Mrs Barry.
Leader of the council John Blackie said the saving from the £6m budget would not affect front-line services, and next year’s council tax would be pegged at 2.7 per cent.
Coun Dunn said Mrs Barry’s claim could exceed £100,000 and lead to redundancies.
The meeting descended into chaos when Coun Dunn demanded that the accused councillors apologise publicly to the officers concerned. Coun Morton said that his wife had already apologised to both, but Coun Dunn alleged she had not spoken to Mrs Barry.
Coun Morton lunged at Coun Dunn, shouting: “Report me to standards, you sod. “You put me on anti-depressants, you sod.”
He was escorted out by Councillor Jill McMullon, council chairman.
Coun Dunn then withdrew his demand for apologies and left the chamber.
Last night, Coun Morton issued an apology to all members and officers.
He said: “Sadly, events at Richmondshire District Council in the past year have at times adversely affected my health and, unfortunately, last night I was provoked to the point at which I lost control.
“Not only do I feel that I have let myself down, but also members and staff who are striving to move the council forward.”
Coun Dunn acknowledged the apology.”