Councillors criticised for inappropriate dress at meetings

A district councillor under fire for wearing his dressing gown to a ‘virtual’ committee meeting broadcast to the public has defended his actions, saying ‘who hasn’t seen a man’s chest before?’.

West Lindsey Offices EMN-200420-134309001
West Lindsey Offices EMN-200420-134309001

Waddingham and Spital ward councillor, and former West Lindsey District Council leader, Jeff Summers has been accused of having ‘little respect’ for his position after wearing nightwear for this month’s regulatory committee.

Gainsborough North Liberal Democrat councillor Keith Panter has also faced criticism for wearing his dressing gown to the council’s virtual planning committee.

Coun Summers - an independent member who recently left the Conservative party - said: “What’s wrong with that [wearing a dressing gown].

Coun Jeff Summers EMN-200619-124142001

“The situation was, I’d been out all day working, when I got home I was absolutely filthy disgusting.

“I’d been digging holes on a farm, helping a friend for a couple of days.

“I was about an hour late getting home and I couldn’t sit in front of the screen covered in mud.

“I had a quick shower and then I was all ready to get on the screen.

Coun Keith Panter EMN-200619-124125001

“Knowing the meeting had already started, when I was dry I slipped on my ankle length dressing gown and took my seat in the virtual committee.

“I wasn’t appropriately dressed, I admit that.

“But who hasn’t seen a man’s chest before?

“So what, it was gaping a little bit, call the police.

“At least I attended the meeting.

“People don’t have to watch it if they can’t stand reality.

“They’re probably jealous.”

“Do those complaining give no quarter to those subjected to an extreme.”

Coun Summers said he had been delayed at the farm due to a shed door needing emergency repairs.

And he said during his time as leader, he and WLDC chief executive Ian Knowles were ‘the two best dressed attendees at any meeting’.

He added: “That night, officers were present the whole meeting and could have asked me to kill my screen as I might have been frightening viewers.”

Coun Summers said he was a hardworking councillor and had recently helped to install a new community footpath in Normanby by Spital.

Coun Panter declined to speak to the Rasen Mail, but sent an email stating: “This is what I have always worn, it wasn’t meant to be disrespectful.

“I will wear a suit for the next meeting.”

A West Lindsey District Council spokesman said the authority did not have a dress code, but would be reminding members meetings were webcast.

He said: “West Lindsey does not have a dress code and members are expected to take individual responsibility for their own appearance when they attend meetings 
whether they are virtual or physical.

“That said, the council are writing to members to remind them that they are being webcast in advance of the full council meeting which is due to take place on June 29.”

When pressed on whether or not it was ok for councillors to attend meetings wearing dressing gowns specifically, WLDC said: “As stated 
earlier, we do not have a dress code but we do expect members to take individual responsibility for their own appearance when they attend meetings.”

But resident ‎Trevor Bridgwood‎ does not think nightwear is appropriate clothing for councillors to wear to meetings.

He said: “Like many in the current situation I’ve been looking at how the coronavirus has affected normal everyday things.

“I discovered that WLDC committee meetings can now be viewed on a webcast so had a look at how we are governed at a local level.

“Turns out I found a couple of pyjama parties.

“Do some councillors have so little respect for the office they hold that they attend official committee meetings in their nightwear?”

But Gainsborough South West councillor Judy Rainsforth, who was at the virtual regulatory meeting, thinks Coun Summers’ attire was ‘funny’.

She said: “He’d been somewhere else and came home filthy, he had a shower and was rushing and went for the quickest option.

“He was well wrapped up.

“I thought it was funny.

“We all look different at the moment - I haven’t had make up on since March.

“At planning [committee] the other day someone was in a tie and I thought ‘they’ve made an effort’.”