By Martin Walker
The leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council has threatened to sue a local paper over an accusation of being a fascist.
In a letter penned by Ken Robson, chairman of the Friends of West Park, and published by the Newton Aycliffe weekly publication, Newton News, he accused elite councillors as being “environmental fascists”.
The published article centred around a row that erupted over the restoration of West Park lake.
Leader Bob Fleming angrily hit back during a council meeting in GATC’s council chamber (pictured above) on Wednesday night.
“I expect to be called names, but I do take offence at being called a fascist,” he said.
“That is a term that is beyond the pale. My legal advisor has told me there’s a case for libel and defamation of character by the author and publisher of an article published in the Newton News.
“I abhor fascism. My family fought fascism – two were killed in action and one came home a cripple for the rest of his life.
“As a boy, I sheltered from bombing raids in Plymouth. I’d go to school, and find some of my friends weren’t there any longer.
“Fascists and their type killed millions. I can be called many things, but not a fascist.”
The Friends of West Park have planted bulbs, cleared rubbish and weeds and dredged the boating lake in recent months.
The council, which owns the park, had encouraged the project, until concerns about the effect of removing weeds and it asked the group to stop.
Cllr Fleming said some of the volunteers had been aggressive towards council officers.
“Politicians expect to be confronted with this type of response,” he said.
“Officers are only doing their job, and a very good job, too. They do not deserve the responses they have received.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, the council agreed to continue to work with the voluntary group in restoring the park.
Mr Robson has reportedly apologised for his comment, saying he meant fanatics not fascists.