A DISGRACED Tory councillor accused of tweeting racist, Islamophobic and sexist comments says his family and reputation have been left in tatters over the saga which landed him before the council's standards committee today (Thursday November 12).

Councillor Colin Elcock, who represents the Norton ward in Stourbridge on Dudley Council, was suspended from the borough's Conservative group over claims he posted tweets saying Islam was "domination not integration", and asking whether people in Iran were "all on the dole", from his official councillor twitter handle in January this year.

He was also accused of posting an array of insults directed at politicians and TV journalists via Twitter, calling one a "silly woman" and another "pig ignorant".

The councillor was further accused of making a sexist comment when responding to another tweet featuring a picture of woman’s buttocks - but he claimed the latter was a result of his account being hacked.

Cllr Elcock was given an indefinite suspension from Dudley Conservatives and the matter has been under investigation by Dudley Council's monitoring officer since four official complaints were submitted about the councillor's remarks on the social media platform.

The matter was also investigated by West Midlands Police and Conservative Party HQ but Cllr Elcock said: "Both found no case to answer."

Today, however, the councillor finally appeared before the council's standards committee and after a day-long virtual hearing on Teams it was decided that his behaviour had fallen short of the standards expected in the members' code of conduct and he had breached the code.

Cllr Elcock had suggested some of the complaints had been politically motivated and with hindsight he should never have joined Twitter at his age - calling it a young person's platform.

He said he bitterly regretted making the posts about Islam and Iran, describing them as "daft opinions" which he shortly afterwards had deleted.

But he insisted he had not shared or commented on the "awful sex shots" which he said were a "shock" to him and his wife as he told how the strain of the saga had "destroyed" his family.

He said his wife of 50 years now wanted to divorce him and he would have to sell the family home as he told the committee and members of the public watching via Teams how "truly, deeply sorry" he was and all he could now do was apologise.

The long-serving local politician, who has been a councillor for 16 years, said he had shut down his Twitter account and not returned to it since.

Cllr Elcock, a former chairman of the council's licensing and safety committee, said he had been a devout Catholic since the age of 21, and had run a successful business in Halesowen, and he told fellow councillors he had no racist or Islamophobic thoughts in his body but had simply been expressing his opinions as a "free man and citizen".

He said he had made the comments during an "extremely volatile time when a lot of hot air was expended by all sides" as the country prepared to leave the EU but he could not have foreseen the effect his posts would have on his life and family.

He said he had been "persecuted for it" and the situation had "broken" him – adding: "It's been very traumatic for me."

Concluding the hearing, members of the committee said they accepted Cllr Elcock "was genuinely sorry for his conduct" but they found he had breached the members' code of conduct which requires publicly elected officials to uphold certain standards - in particular they found his actions had breached the principles of selflessness, objectivity and leadership.

And they said the breach of the code had arisen as a result of his behaviour not his beliefs.

The committee was not able to reach a finding in relation to the 'lewd Twitter content' but members determined the "various tweets and comments relating to Islam, Iran, politicians and journalists were not made solely in terms of the public interest" and they could have been viewed as discriminatory and/or biased against Islam, Iran and female journalists.

Members found Cllr Elcock's behaviour did not support the principle of leadership and willingness to challenge poor behaviour when it occurs and they said there was a clear difference between expression of robust political views and "purely insulting language and swear words by a councillor".

The standards committee has no power to suspend or disqualify a councillor from office but it can mete out various sanctions so it was decided a formal letter would be sent by the chairman of the audit and standards committee to Cllr Elcock who would be required to undertake equality and diversity training.

Committee chairman, Councillor Alan Taylor, said the council would also be recommended to review the provision of appropriate social media training for all councillors. 

Cllr Elcock, now an independent councillor whose term in office runs until 2022, said as the hearing concluded: "I've committed the offence, I've got to take the medicine for it. I'm man enough and broad shouldered enough to take the medicine for it...I'm just sorry that it's happened."

He said he felt the committee's decision was "entirely fair" and added: "I'm satisfied with the decision. It's a very, very good decision."

Mark Binnersley, who was among the four complainants to have lodged a formal complaint about the tweets, said afterwards: "I am utterly shocked. Cllr Elcock has effectively received no sanction for his racist, Islamophobic and sexist behaviour. What message does that send about Dudley Council? 

"If Cllr Elcock was as contrite as he came across in the meeting, he would do the honourable thing and resign. I don't believe his comments were a mistake and I am convinced that he continues to hold bigoted views. There's no place in public life for this."

Another complainant, Kyle Pedley, said: "I take absolutely no personal pleasure in seeing anyone go through this kind of process - irrespective of their misconduct - and in asking for 'pity' and 'sympathy' as he did, Cllr Elcock has both from me, but it does not excuse nor deflect from both his unacceptable behaviour."