Councillor arrested in 'racial' parking row

A SOUTH Tyneside councillor has been suspended by Labour Party chiefs after being arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated disorder.

Coun Rob Dix, pictured, Labour representative for Harton, was arrested last Wednesday afternoon by officers in Chapter Row, South Shields, following an alleged incident in the town centre.

He was taken to South Shields Police Station where he was questioned.

He wasn't charged and released on police bail. He was ordered to reappear at the station on May 7.

The Gazette understands the suspected offence relates to an alleged dispute with a black traffic enforcement officer, while Coun Dix, 52, was delivering for Parcelforce in East Street, South Shields.

Today Neil Fleming, spokesman for the Labour Party, told the Gazette that Coun Dix, of Summerhill Road, South Shields had been suspended by the party, pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Parcelforce Worldwide, who Coun Dix is understood to have been working for at the time, said a full internal investigation has been launched, but refused to say whether he had been suspended.

Spokesman Marie Gray said: "Parcelforce Worldwide has been informed of an incident involving a driver on Wednesday March 26.

"An internal investigation is underway and we will also await the results of the police inquiry."

Coun Ed Malcolm, chief whip of the Labour group on South Tyneside Council, said: "We cannot make any comment until the police have concluded their inquires."

Coun Dix was re-elected to South Tyneside Council on May 3 last year, ousting veteran Progressive Councillor Gordon Finch by 229 votes. He'd previously lost his seat in the 2004 local elections.

He is currently vice-chair of the Regeneration and Resources Scrutiny Committee, and sits on a range of other committees including licensing and regulatory.

A senior South Shields Labour Party source said: "No-one knows many details about the incident yet, but he's innocent until proven otherwise.

"The case is likely to be treated very seriously, as potential Labour candidates have to agree that they're in favour of equal opportunities for all. A racially motivated incident would go against this ethos."

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "We can confirm that a 52-year-old man was arrested at Chapter Row, South Shields on Wednesday March 26 on suspicion of racially aggravated disorder. He was released on police bail, and will return to the station on May 7."

Coun Dix did not return any calls made to his home by the Gazette yesterday.