THE chairman of a Cheshire-wide committee has lost a vote of no confidence, after he questioned a senior officer’s rainbow lanyard supporting the LGBT community.

Bob Fousert, an independent member of the Cheshire Police and Crime Panel – which holds commissioner David Keane to account – was removed as chairman by seven votes to four.

Mr Fousert called an extraordinary meeting in Winsford today in a bid to ‘resolve the issue at the earliest opportunity’, but fellow members decided that his comments had ‘overstepped the boundaries’.

The comments were made at a meeting in June, following a discussion on Cheshire Constabulary’s recent tribunal involving Matthew Furlong – a 25-year-old who was overlooked for a job at Cheshire Police because he was white, heterosexual and male.

Later in the meeting, Mr Fousert asked whether DCC Julie Cooke’s rainbow lanyard was an ‘overtly political statement’ and raised questions over impartiality.

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At today’s meeting, Cllr Dave Thompson (Lab) called the comments an ‘attack’ on DCC Cooke, questioning Mr Fousert’s phrasing on the day and choice of language – namely the word ‘homosexual’ – in a later letter to Mr Keane, who had called on him to step down.

In a statement read to members, Mr Fousert said: "It is unfortunate, even sad, fact of life today that when someone makes an observational comment with regards to LGBT issues they are often treated like heretics, to be vilified, pilloried and castigated."

He added that at no time had he sought disciplinary action against DCC Cooke.

He said: “It is our responsibility to scrutinise and hold to account the PCC and by extension he holds the constabulary to account.

Northwich Guardian:

“Given our responsibility on behalf of the people of Cheshire we must never shirk from asking what may be perceived as difficult questions

“To avoid asking such questions is, in my opinion, a dereliction of our duty.”

Cllr Thompson said: “We are all entitled to a personal view but when you are chairing a public body there comes a responsibility.

“You identified a police officer and on the basis of a lanyard attacked that officer.

“This is not about politics. This is about, in a modern-day society on a public body, how we address and describe people and the appropriateness of it.”

Northwich Guardian:

After Mr Fousert asked whether LGBT lanyards and car markings could reduce the public’s perception of impartiality, Cllr Thompson said: “I think you are missing the point.

“The issue of impartiality and the need to discuss it, I understand. But I think you have crossed a boundary.”

Before proposing the vote of no confidence, he added that he was a big supporter of Mr Fousert who he said had a lot to offer the panel and was a ‘decent guy’ and not homophobic.

Labour councillors on the panel rejected suggestions that they had politicised the row, saying they had unanimously backed Mr Fousert to continue as chairman just minutes before the comments were made.

But co-opted member Sally Hardwick called the motion ‘a load of rubbish’ saying it was not ‘an issue that requires resignation’.

Cllr Andrew Dawson, who suggested that Mr Fousert was right to raise any concern but could have chosen his words more carefully, moved a motion for the panel to undertake equality and diversity training.

In a previous statement, Mr Fousert said: “This was not and never was intended to be an attack upon the LGBT community and I am sorry that it has been made to seem that way. This was primarily an issue of impartiality policing.”