Margaret Thatcher clash sparks bully row

Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher.

A councillor has been named and shamed for bullying a member of the public after he made derogatory comments about the late Margaret Thatcher.

Carnforth town councillor Ian Dent appeared before Lancaster City Council’s Standards Committee, where he was found to have breached the town council’s Code of Conduct.

Coun Dent was found to have made abusive and silent telephone calls to Lawrence Branyan, referred to him as a “liar and a cheat”, and threatened to “pay him a personal visit” if he did not respond to emails and calls.

On April 21 last year, Mr Branyan, from Capernwray, made an official complaint to Lancaster City Council after Coun Dent referred to the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher as an “old bitch” in a council agenda.

The city council’s monitoring officer then sent a copy of the complaint to Coun Dent, which contained Mr Branyan’s home, business and mobile contact details.

This week, the council said it had changed its procedure and would no longer send out personal details in light of what happened.

Coun Dent’s reference to Margaret Thatcher was part of a resolution asking other councillors not to identify with national tributes to the former Prime Minister following her death.

Mr Branyan, who attends meetings at Carnforth Town Council as a community correspondent, argued that the language was inappropriate and disrespectful, and that Coun Dent was deliberately bringing party politics into a non-political forum.

Mr Branyan was then subjected to abusive telephone calls from Coun Dent on his home, office and mobile phones, as well as silent calls.

The Standards Committee noted that Coun Dent did not deny that he had made the phone calls, and in particular that he admitted that “blowing a whistle down a telephone line was something that he would be likely to do”.

On April 23, Mr Branyan said that he received further messages from Coun Dent on his business and mobile phone, stating that if he didn’t return the calls, then Coun Dent would have no option but to “pay him a personal visit”.

Later that evening, Mr Branyan says that his business Facebook page was defaced by Mr Dent.

It referred to him as a liar and a cheat which caused him to block Coun Dent from the site.

Mr Branyan continued to have issues with Coun Dent, who contacted Rotary International, of which Mr Branyan is a member, and threatened to stand outside their offices with a placard reading “Carnforth Rotary does not believe in free speech”.

Mr Dent also submitted a motion to Carnforth Town Council asking councillors to ban people from outside Carnforth being standard bearers at Remembrance events in the town. As Mr Branyan is a standard bearer who lives in Capernwray, he believed this was a direct attempt to get at him.

Mr Branyan then contacted police, which resulted in Coun Dent being issued with a 12-month harassment order on May 18 last year.

Coun Dent did not wish to comment on the matter, and Carnforth Town Council had not responded to requests for comments at the time the Lancaster Guardian went to press.

Mark Cullinan, chief executive of Lancaster City Council, said that the council did not expect an elected member to use contact details in this way.

He added: “But in the light of this, a complainant’s contact details will not in future be provided to the elected member complained of.”

Last week, Carnforth Town Council voted to “censure” Coun Dent, of Coniston Road, Carnforth, publicly exposing his actions.