'Massive bill' for standards probe over Bill Etheridge's online rants
Dudley taxpayers have been left with a £1,700 bill for an investigation into a UKIP councillor's online rant.
Bill Etheridge was hauled before the town council's standards committee after he posted Facebook videos branding Labour councillors 'a procession of morons and imbeciles', 'commies' and 'pinkos'.
The Sedgley councillor refused to turn up to the hearing, but in his absence was found to have breached the members code of conduct.
It followed a complaint by Labour group leader Councillor Pete Lowe, who argued that Mr Etheridge's comments had been 'threatening and disrespectful'.
Following a request from Mr Etheridge, Mohammed Farooq, the council's monitoring officer, revealed that investigating officer John Austin's fee amounted to £1,286.45 for the investigation.
A further cost of £413.55 is said to have been incurred due to council officers' involvement in the investigation and their attendance at the meeting.
Mr Etheridge, who is also a West Midlands MEP, said: “This is a massive bill of £1,700 for a witch hunt to close down free speech.
“If these delicate, tender souls have such timid dispositions, should they really be standing for public office?
“The only punishment possible is a vote to censure me. I can’t be kicked off any committees since my work as an MEP prevents me from sitting on any in the first place.
“Labour group leader Pete Lowe knew this and yet still went ahead with the complaint at great expense to Dudley taxpayers.
“Tory and Labour councillors have recently combined to vote in a huge council tax rise and that £1,700 is money that could have been spent on things like tree maintenance and road safety.
“I won’t be bound by anything they say anyway.”
Mr Etheridge posted two incendiary online videos following a heated full council meeting last year.
He called the Labour group a 'procession of morons and imbeciles' and also called councillors 'socialist do-gooder bleeding hard communist rat bags'.
He also said Dudley Council House should be demolished, and that he 'wouldn't care if councillors were inside' at the time.
Mr Austin said Mr Etheridge had failed to 'treat people including officers and the mayor with respect'.
Mr Etheridge, who could be ordered to attend a training course as punishment, has since apologised to 'morons and imbeciles everywhere'.