Green councillor wins apology over ‘ageist’ remarks

Posted On 04 Dec 2020 at 7:12 pm

An independent councillor has apologised to a Green colleague for making remarks about her age which had the “potential to amount to a breach” of a code of conduct.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh posted the apology on her Facebook page – Bridget By The Sea – as well as sending it by email to Councillor Amy Heley.

When Councillor Heley took the chair of a key Brighton and Hove City Council policy committee, Councillor Fishleigh wrote: “So now a 24-year old is in charge of transport, Cityclean, recycling and a raft of other vital services across the city.”

She said that she had looked at Councillor Heley’s Linkedin page and added: “There are many reasons why you don’t find 24-year olds in senior management positions in FTSE 500 companies.”

It prompted a complaint from Councillor Heley, who left BHASVIC (Brighton, Hove And Sussex VI Form College) six years ago with three A-grade A levels before completing a degree in modern languages at Bristol University.

Today (Friday 4 December), Councillor Fishleigh wrote: “My point was a general one about her experience. I had no intention of causing offence. For this, I am sorry.”

Here is what Councillor Fishleigh posted on her Facebook page today: “This post is my public apology to Councillor Amy Heley. I have apologised privately by email too. An apology she has kindly accepted.

“You may be wondering why I am apologising – or struggling to remember the details – so it’s only right that I make it clear what I am apologising for.

“Background – On (Saturday) 19 September I posted a link to the story below ‘cycle lane chief facing a backlash over controversial lanes has quit his role’.

“I wrote, ‘So now a 24-year old is in charge of transport, Cityclean, recycling and a raft of other vital services across the city.’

“Having viewed the Linkedin page of the 24-year-old, I then observed: ‘There are many reasons why you don’t find 24-year olds in senior management positions in FTSE 500 companies.’

“As a result, Councillor Heley raised a formal ‘standards’ complaint, believing that the comments I made were ageist and against the Equality Act.

“The complaint was considered by the council’s monitoring officer and an independent person outside the council who decided that my reference to Councillor Heley’s age ‘does have potential to amount to a breach of the code’.

Councillor Amy Heley

“You can read the Code of Conduct for Councillors here.

“Extract: ‘When carrying out their public role, members must adhere to the seven principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership.’

“And here you can read about ageism.

“While I did reference a fact that Councillor Heley had herself already stated in the public realm, I did not intend to refer to her in a way that could be construed as ageist.

“My point was a general one about her experience. I had no intention of causing offence. For this, I am sorry.

“Of course, I wish Councillor Heley all the best in tackling some huge problems in our city. On the plus side, she has kindly agreed to meet me for a bike ride around the area I represent from Sussex Square to West Saltdean.

“She is the person who can make things happen for us – so I’ll be sure to post here to ensure I have all our transport issues covered – undercliff, Rottingdean planter, congestion, etc, etc – as well as bin collections, weeds on pavements and other ongoing problems.

“As agreed with Councillor Heley and the council’s lawyers, I am going to try to disable comments on this post.”

  1. Adam Campbell Reply

    Sorry but a 24 year old lacks experience on many levels. The city is in a mess because entitled amateurs are trying to run it. Even the Green Convenor has never had a proper job let alone run a business. Add the Momentum monsters and it’s not looking good for the future. Oh, and she should not have apologised.

    • Valerie Reply

      Careful! Do you suggest being party leader is not a proper job? Your own local party leader (and past leader, Mary Mears) are unlikely to agree that! And city council leadership came to him because of a seriously competent track record as Chair of Planning & as ward cllr among other duties.

      Broadly speaking there is an issue around the usefulness of some councillors who just toe party lines, give nothing much to their ward residents & are only in it for a political bunfight. Very few cllrs are able to call officers to account or even use them well – across ALL political parties.

      • Adam Campbell Reply

        It a proper job and requires someone with knowledge and flair to do it properly. Regrettably what we have is a glorified student union debating captain Val.

      • Nigel Furness Reply

        A little disingenuous by your standards, Valerie as Adam is plainly refffering here to LIFE EXPERIENCE.
        Have’nt you proclaimed, many times in conversations with me, that many of our nation’s ills stem from students graduating graduating staight out of university into Parliamentary Internships—WITHOUT experiencing anything of the REAL world in the interem?
        That said, I agree that Phelim was a seriously COMPETENT Chair of Planning when he replaced CHRISTOPHER HAWTREE in that role—some might say a positive breath of fresh air—but I can’t wholly go along with your assertion as to his same competence as a Ward Councillor—and I AM one of his Constituents! No, most people in my area would far sooner have Ollie Sykes back because he got on with the nitty gritty work required of a councillor and, though a good number of locals were’nt enamoured of his GREEN politics, unlike some who never lose an opportunity to preach their beliefs, they kept one vote for him precisely because of this!

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Bang on, Adam.
      As my late Northern Irish Grannie, a much respected woman in her part of the country, instilled int her six children a century ago: “Always remember that EXPERIENCE is the ONLY teacher— but the FEES are exceedingly HIGH!
      That phrase still echoes throughout the generations of her family to this day—SIX generations on!
      Such wisdom wouldn’t go amiss in our Council Chambers right now, don’t you think?

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    So far as I can see, the article does not mention cllr Fishleigh’s age while she bangs on about cllr Healy’s youth.Indeed age is irrevelant. Think of how many poets did their best in the hot-flush of their twenties, as indeed did such mathematicians as Newton and Russell/Whitehead. There is no set rule for these things: equally, Churchill was at his best in the Forties.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Pretty balanced for YOU, Christopher!
      I’ll give it five.

  3. Billy Short Reply

    We live in a world where people name call – and so you’re either a Millennial or you’re a Boomer and that stereotyping is often used to dismiss views we don’t share.
    I would welcome younger people coming into politics but I guess the criticism here is where a newcomer gets parachuted straight into a very responsible job.
    As a Green councillor, does Ms Healy even drive?

    So many of my own friends don’t own cars nowadays – either because they don’t need one, or else because it’s just so expensive and impractical to own a vehicle in Brighton and Hove. But would I want those friends in charge of road and transport policy? No.

    I don’t care about the age of our councillors, but about their ability to run the city for the good of all residents, and with appropriate empathy. We are a city with very poor public transport and there’s no budget to address that problem.
    The chaotic mess the Green and Momentum alliance has made of our roads is there for all to see. Car parking in the middle of the road. Plastic bollards and posts stuck in the road and across paths at random. Duplicated cycle lanes with no signage. Traffic queues created for no reason.
    As a cyclist myself I find this bizarre.
    As a van driver I can tell you they dug up the seafront road at the junction of West street six times, endlessly changing their minds about the layout and the width of the pedestrian island.

    And since the city council is broke and with a declining income it would be great if they could shift their ideals and concentrate instead on the basics, such as emptying our bins, recycling, and on proper maintenance of roads, pavements, heritage railings and other street furniture.

    It’s sad that you probably become a councillor because you have ideas and ideals you’d like to chase, but then find your job is actually to run basic services effectively.

    • Hove Guy Reply

      You are so right Billy. But I can’t help wondering why this petty name calling is considered newsworthy, when there are so many. more important issues to be dealt with. And clearly they are not. We had a similar situation reported here only a few weeks ago, also involving Green councillors. When they behave like silly spoilt children, they should be regarded as just that, and not given so much publicity. Better still, they should be kicked out of office once and for all.

  4. Nigel Furness Reply

    Thank YOU, Billy, for a wonderfully balanced and constructive piece of common sense—MORE PLEASE!
    May I venture that you might make a good addition to our Council Chambers?

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