South West Wales

Pembrokeshire councillor's 'Old Grumpy' blog inquiry

Cllr Mike Stoddart
Image caption Cllr Mike Stoddart started writing a column in 1992, when his family owned a local newspaper

A councillor is being investigated by the local government ombudsman for comments made on his "Old Grumpy" blog.

Manorbier community council complained after Pembrokeshire councillor Mike Stoddart was critical of its members.

He wrote: "It would be going too far to describe these people as fascists, but their tactics, if not their shirts, have a distinctly brown tinge."

Mr Stoddart, who has suspended posts to his site, said he would fight for his right to free speech.

The public services ombudsman for Wales has confirmed Mr Stoddart is the subject of an investigation.

The county councillor from Milford Haven first began writing his column in 1992 when he and his family owned and ran the Milford Mercury newspaper.

Since 2000 his blog has been published on the web after they sold the business and he says it attracts around 600 hits a week.

A critic of the ruling independent group on Pembrokeshire council, Mr Stoddart also gives his opinions on other public bodies and the county's political scene.

Code of conduct

But it is a post he published in August 2009 about Manorbier community council, of which he is not a member, that is the subject of the investigation.

Mr Stoddart made the comment in a long piece about a decision to read out a letter at the community council's monthly meeting criticising one of its members.

Image caption Councillor Mike Stoddart has suspended posts to his weekly Old Grumpy blog

The chairman of Manorbier community council, Raymond Hughes, told BBC Wales he had complained to the ombudsman on behalf of his colleagues.

He said as the investigation was ongoing it would not be appropriate to say anything more.

A spokeswoman for the public services ombudsman for Wales also said apart from confirming Mr Stoddart was under investigation they could not say anything further.

Councillor Stoddart said he did not think it was wise to comment as he had been told he was being investigated for a breach of the councillors' code of conduct.

But he did say if the ombudsman did decide he had a case to answer he would "fight for his right to free speech."

In a separate case, last month a Cardiff councillor who referred to Scientology as "stupid" on a social network site was referred to an ethics committee.

The public services ombudsman ruled John Dixon had a case to answer under the councillors' code of conduct after a member of the Church of Scientology made a complaint.

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