‘I did not say those words’: Councillor suspended as probe starts into race row

A South Tyneside councillor who has been suspended from his party accused of making racist remarks will co-operate with the investigation - which he says will exonerate him of any wrong-doing.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 7:47 am
Coun Jeff Milburn

Conservative councillor Jeff Milburn, who represents the Cleadon and East Boldon ward on South Tyneside Council, has been suspended from the party after two complaints that he used racially offensive language

The investigation has been launched after written accusations by former South Shields Conservative Association chairman, Ajay Jagota, and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

Ajay Jagota

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Both letters - which have been seen by the Gazette - accuse Coun Milburn of making ‘racially offensive’ remarks.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Conservative Association said: “Jeff Milburn’s membership has been suspended pending an investigation.”

The race row is claimed to have first flared up in September when remarks about Mr Jagota were alleged to have been made at a Conservative Party function.

Gerard Leake was chair of Jarrow Conservative Association when he says Coun Milburn made an allegedly offensive comment to him about Mr Jagota on September 22. This was overheard by Mr Jagota.

Both men resigned their positions claiming party chiefs failed to adequately address their claims.

Coun Milburn has refuted the allegation and says he was asked by the Conservative regional office in November if there was truth to the claim, and his denial was accepted.

It emerged last week that a further allegation was made against Coun Milburn in September in relation to a comment he is said to have made about the female Kenyan runners who finished in the top three of last year’s Great North Run race.

In a letter to Mike Harding, South Tyneside Council’s monitoring officer, on September 10, Mrs Lewell-Buck claims Coun Milburn made a racially offensive comment about the athletes Vivian Cheruiyot, Brigid Kosgei and Joyciline Jepkosgei to her at the finish of the Great North Run.

Coun Milburn also denies this allegation.

Coun Milburn said: “Because of protocol I have been suspended. I will be fully co-operating with the investigation which will exonerate me of any wrong doing.

“The allegation in relation to the president’s meeting saw me totally exonerated.

“The second allegation, about words I am supposed to have said at the Great North Run, I only found out about two weeks ago.

“I did not say those words.”