THE leader of the opposition at Oxfordshire County Council was asked to withdraw an unedifying remark targeted at a political opponent on Tuesday. 

Conservative councillor Eddie Reeves was invited to take back a comment in which he referred to Councillor Tim Bearder as ‘an incredibly small man in more ways than one’. 

Mr Reeves withdrew the remark but embarked on a spiky exchange with one of the council’s most senior officials, monitoring officer Anita Bradley, who had raised the matter at the end of a council meeting. 

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The comments emanated from the debate of Mr Reeves’s motion on scrapping lunches at council meetings.

Councillor Liam Walker took aim at political rivals serving across different authorities, accusing Mr Bearder of wearing ‘so many hats in different councils he cannot sit upright in his seat’.

Mr Reeves added: “For a change I am going to say something polite about Councillor Bearder, he is in fact sitting up straight in his chair, he is just an incredibly small man in more ways than one.”

Council footage shows deputy leader of the opposition Councillor Donna Ford and fellow Conservative councillors Nigel Simpson and Nick Leverton laughing immediately after the comment. 

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Chair councillor Susanna Pressel said after the meeting: “There have been a couple of comments this afternoon about respecting one another and I would remind all members that they are responsible for the ethical governance within the organisation, as well as myself as the council’s monitoring officer.

“There has been a personal comment made and I would just like to give Councillor Reeves this opportunity to withdraw that comment.”

She went on to clarify that it was the comment aimed at Mr Bearder to which Mr Reeves replied: “Happy to withdraw.” 

Addressing Ms Bradley, Mr Reeves continued: “Perhaps you would be so good as to ask Councillor Hicks to withdraw the comment about us [Conservative councillors] being hypocrites – 21 of us, I think.” 

Mr Reeves continued to speak as Ms Bradley attempted to respond but his comments were not picked up by the council’s sound system. 

The meeting was then closed and Mr Reeves was seen to walk past Ms Bradley and chief executive Stephen Chandler, seemingly without any further dialogue in the council chamber.

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The comment made by Mr Hicks was during the debate of an earlier motion, also from Mr Reeves, which requested the council ‘halt any immediate expansion in LTNs (low traffic neighbourhoods)’ until ‘significant concerns’ and ‘shortcomings’ in relation to consultation work and data were overcome. 


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