Dorset councillor who mimicked colleague's Irish accent for eight years ordered to take diversity training

Wednesday 17 January 2024

A councillor who mimicked a colleague's Irish accent for eight years has been told to apologise and take diversity training.

Bill Pipe breached Dorset Council's code of conduct and his behaviour towards the woman was "offensive," a panel found.

Mr Pipe claimed his actions were "merely jovial banter," adding he did not realise he had caused offence, particularly as his actions had continued without complaint.

"Had I known my doing this would offend, or belittle her, I would have stopped immediately and apologised," he said. "It's pretty sad it's got to this state.

"I do accept that my actions fell below the standard expected, 25 years in the Royal Navy obviously doesn't do me any favours in the council."

Councillor Susan Cocking, who led the panel of three, said: "This was offensive and not acceptable under any circumstances - no one should be subjected to such treatment."

Fellow councillor Cathy Lugg, who appeared at the hearing to support Mr Pipe, told the panel: "I suspect his sense of humour comes from his time in the armed services. He remains a good councillor and is popular in his ward."

Mr Pipe has not been allowed in council buildings unaccompanied since he his pass withdrawn in the summer when the investigation started.

The 50-year-old councillor was also alleged to have made a homophobic joke on another occasion and a comment about a visible panty line.   

He denied making these remarks and the allegations could not be substantiated by an investigating officer acting for Dorset Council's standards committee.

He has been told to write a letter of apology to the female officer and will be offered a mentor to provide ongoing guidance and support.