A SOLIHULL councillor suspended two years ago over controversial tweets about Islam and immigration has been welcomed back into the council’s Conservative group, we can reveal.
The reinstatement of Knowle Councillor Jeff Potts comes 12 days after the Conservatives narrowly avoided losing overall control of Solihull Council in the local elections.
The Conservatives lost five seats, leaving them with 26 elected members – and only a one seat advantage over all other councillors combined.
A petition launched at the end of 2017 calling for Coun Potts’ resignation had reached nearly 3,000 signatures.
Ahead of the council’s annual general meeting tonight, an agenda item entitled ‘Report of the Chief Executive’ shows previously independent Coun Potts as one of 27 Conservative members.
Coun Potts’ reinstatement has boosted their overall majority to three seats.
Coun Ian Courts – widely anticipated to be elected as council leader at tonight’s AGM – said: “An application was received by Coun Potts for re-admission to the Conservative Group on the council.
“Consideration was given to the findings of the Code of Conduct hearing held in March last year and the breach of conduct, and the offence to others that had been caused; also the representations made in mitigation.
“Sanctions were imposed and these have been complied with thoroughly.
“Coun Potts has apologised publicly for his unacceptable behaviour, admitted his mistakes, undergone extensive training and attempted to do everything that has been requested of him and has confirmed that he will continue to do so.
“Coun Potts was re-admitted as a member of the party some time ago and this was unrelated to the election.
“Whilst the decision of the group taken on secret ballot was to re-admit him as group member, it has been made clear that he will not feature on the list of council appointments to be considered at Full Council.
“In the council, we must confirm our commitment to equality and diversity and respect for others.
“I celebrate personally the diversity in this country and borough on which we thrive and have had more experience of this than most.
“However, we must also move forward and there is also a need for reconciliation and rehabilitation in all situations.
“Jeff Pott’s action was wrong, reprehensible and he has been dealt with appropriately by my group.”
As we reported, Coun Potts was suspended from the group in September 2017 after a probe was launched into his re-tweeting of ‘offensive’ tweets on immigration and Islam.
The former teacher was also suspended from the national Conservative party, as well as being forced to become an independent councillor outside the ruling Tory group.
But as we revealed Coun Potts was welcomed back into the national Conservative Party in November last year amid allegations of ‘Islamaphobia’ among several elected officials nationally.
Coun Potts shared a number of extreme comments tweeted by other people about Muslims including one which stated: “Deport and repatriate all Muslims from the UK or watch terrorists kill innocent people for generations to come.”
Coun Potts also shared a tweet from another account which commented: “Drug related.. mmm.. will wait on the verdict wonder if his name will be a good old fashioned British name.”
He re-tweeted comments by others which state: “You’ve clearly not experienced the Pakistani hospitality, having a daughter raped by men who think she’s ‘white trash’.”
Shirley Green Councillor Max McLoughlin said: “It’s deeply concerning that one of Coun Courts’ first actions as leader is to accept Coun Potts back into the Conservative Group.
“Some of the most divisive and offensive material is still live on Coun Potts Twitter profile.
“Our first responsibility as councillors is to look after the well-being of all Solihull residents and this fails on that measure.”
The monitoring officer at Solihull council received 50 complaints concerning re-tweets Coun Potts had posted.
The AGM will start at 7pm, introducing the four new faces on the council as well as selecting a new leader after Coun Bob Sleigh stepped down last month.