ELECTED members of a local authority which has faced repeated criticism over bitter rows have unanimously approved a move to always afford others “equal respect, trust, friendship and kindness”.

However, just over half an hour after Darlington Borough councillors agreed to abide by the More In Common Darlington charter inspired by the murdered MP Jo Cox, one of its youngest members felt forced to highlight how a climate change debate had descended into abuse. Councillor Libby McCollom told the meeting: “I’m quite shocked by the tone of this debate and the attacks aimed personally at councillors.”

Introducing the motion to find ways of reducing animosity towards people from different nations and faiths, towards women, the LBGT community, those with disabilities, the homeless and others, leader of the Labour group Councillor Stephen Harker said

“We are all human and are all fallible. That individual fallibility is why I would argue we should pass this motion, so that as a council, despite the occasional individual slips, we be seen to be clearly signing up to principle of mutual respect.”

The Tory-led council’s leader Councillor Heather Scott then emphasised to councillors they would have to operate within the terms of the charter. 

Councillors agreed that meaningful change was needed rather than platitudes, while others said hurtful and hateful comments on social media needed to be called out.

Former long-serving police officer Councillor Brian Jones said he could not understand the need “for what amounts to almost hatred between groups of supposedly sensible people on this council”.

: “We have elected members on this council who need to change. And to change quite dramatically in both attitude and behaviour. In recent months we have had some difficult meetings, bad tempered and acrimonious, and such behaviour doesn’t necessarily provide the best results for the people of Darlington, the very people we are here to represent, not to mention the image presented to the public.”