'Fed up of hearing about equality': Councillor blasted over comments at meeting
A Staffordshire county councillor has said he is "fed up of hearing about equality", insisting the authority has more pressing matters to deal with during the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor David Brookes’ comments – made at end of a lengthy virtual meeting – were in response to a request by another member for a committee to discuss gender and equality issues at another session in the coming months.
Councillor Sue Woodward had called for gender and equality issues to be considered by the corporate review committee in light of recent information about the impacts of Covid-19 on women. A report on gender and equality issues had been due for consideration at a meeting on March 31, but the session was cancelled and the discussion delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.
Councillor Brookes responded: "I’m getting a bit fed up of hearing about equality – at the moment we have got bigger priorities to be getting on with and that’s looking after everybody and ensuring the county council is able to deliver its services as well as it can.
"All we’re getting is equality rammed down our blasted neck all the time. I think we should get on and I don’t think we should be getting bogged down in it. We have more important things to do."
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Councillor Woodward hit out at Councillor Brookes’ comments during and after the meeting. She said: "Equality is one of our core responsibilities. I think that comment was really quite disgraceful."
Speaking after the meeting she added: "We have had gender equality as an item for consideration for quite some time now and officers have put a presentation and report together to look at it further.
"A colleague in Lichfield has done research on the impact on women of Covid-19 and we have heard through the national news women are being adversely affected because of the jobs they are in, home-schooling and child care.
"I thought it was an excellent meeting – to make that comment at the end Councillor Brookes certainly doesn’t feel gender issues are of any concern to Staffordshire County Council. I couldn’t disagree more – and I have had other members send me text messages to say they agree with me.
"I don’t want the issue to be put onto the back burner in an organisation where women members are in the minority. We need to ensure that our views are heard."
But Councillor Brookes, speaking after the meeting, said it would be better to discuss equality issues at a later date.
"We have already spent a lot of time in the past 18 months talking about equality – at this time I don’t think it is necessary,” he said.
"We have a duty of care to scrutinise what is going on with the county council but as members we have been told to spend on Covid-19 interventions. We have got to prioritise things."