A Conservative councillor who has been appointed to oversee equalities and issues relating to refugees, asylum seekers and Gypsies for England’s third largest council should be sacked over a controversial social media post she made in 2019, it has been claimed.

Ahead of attending her first meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s decision-making executive today (Tuesday, May 21), opposition members have questioned the appointment of Councillor Heather Phillips as executive member for corporate services after likeing a post on Twitter which appeared to question whether a photo of an unusually dark coloured squirrel was a Muslim.  

A Scarborough Borough Council standards investigation into Coun Phillips’ post found retweeting and liking posts on any social media platform was the same as creating the content of the posts themselves.

The investigation into a complaint that Coun Phillips had used “disrespectful and inappropriate language” concluded as the elected member had used an account featuring her councillor title and due to the nature of the language and content of the posts, Coun Phillips should undertake equalities training.

The Northern Echo: One of the posts the councillor retweetedOne of the posts the councillor retweeted (Image: LDR)

The investigation report stated: “All councillors should be aware that, if they are referring online in any way to their role as a councillor then they are deemed to acting in their ‘official capacity’ and their conduct will be subject to the Code of Conduct.

“Councillors should therefore consider having a personal social media account
alongside their Councillor account for any personal or non-council related posts which they wish to share, like or comment upon.”

Coun Phillips, who represents Seamer, in Scarborough, has been approached for comment.

When asked about his appointment of Coun Phillips to the executive and the Twitter post, North Yorkshire Council leader Councillor Carl Les said he aware she had undertaken the training that was recommended.


However, while a number of councillors privately said they disagreed with Coun Phillips appointment to the executive, or to the specific role on the executive, they declined to make any public statement on the issue.

However, Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the council’s Independents group, described the appointment as “very worrying”.

He said: “This appointment will damage the reputation of North Yorkshire Council and the Conservative group.

“Given the nature of her executive role it would appear that they couldn’t have chosen a worse candidate for the job.

“How can she deal fairly with refugees and minorities is she is expressing such views in public? Coun Les should sack her immediately and do his homework before appointing the next member.”

The council’s Labour group leader, Councillor Steve Shaw Wright, said the standards regime was “a toothless tiger” and needed looking at.

Coun Shaw Wright said: “As far as I’m concerned the Heather Phillips matter has been dealt with by Scarborough council, and once you’ve been dealt with you can’t be dealt with again.

“It’s a distraction to what’s going on. There’s more things to worry about than what somebody tweeted in 2019.”

He added other elected members who had initially refused to undergo training following an investigation finding against them had fulfilled the duty by “sitting in the corner of an office reading a newspaper so they could prove they had attended”.