Swindon councillor reveals phone threat ahead of vote of no confidence in leader

A COUNCILLOR was told his life would be “made hell” if he voted against the borough leader at a crunch meeting last month.

Conservative Vinay Manro revealed the threatening message he received as he and his colleagues prepared to take sides in a vote of no confidence in David Renard.

The vote – due to take place on October 1 – was pulled after allegations of intimidation.

There is no suggestion Coun Renard or the Conservative group knew anything about the message.

Had three Swindon Tory councillors voted against their leader, then it is likely Coun Renard would have been unseated after seven years at the helm.

Coun Manro, who represents Priory Vale, told Thursday night’s council meeting: “I was a recipient of a recent threat, so to speak, and I would like to thank the officers who tried to reach out and offer me support.”

He spoke as members debated a move designed to help members who experience intimidation.

The Adver has heard a recording of the message Coun Manro says was left on his home telephone answering machine.

In it, a seemingly disguised but perfectly understandable man’s voice says: “Vinay, if you vote against David tomorrow, we will come after you and your business and make your life hell.”

It is unclear how or when the recording was made.

Coun Renard said he had not heard the purported threat himself and unequivocally condemned any intimidation made to councillors at any time.

It is understood Coun Manro did contact the police but then decided not to proceed with an investigation.

At Thursday’s virtual meeting, Independent Tory councillor Oliver Donachie asked the authority to provide extra support to councillors if they encounter intimidatory behaviour.

Coun Donachie alleged there had been threats made to councillors to discourage them from voting to support his vote of no confidence in Coun Renard, which was due to be debated at the full council meeting on October 1. That motion was withdrawn.

Coun Donachie said: “Councillors must be free to vote with their conscience free of intimidation when they do so.

“I have been privy to an example of this. And I hope when evidence of this arises the council takes action against it.”

Coun Donachie accepted a Conservative amendment, so it said: “The council wishes the cabinet to consider as part of the budget process, ongoing funding to enable on an annual basis, member training on how to deal with, and the options open to them, when they experience undue influence or intimidation of any kind in relation to their role as a councillor and the decision they have to make.

“This council condemns any form of bullying or intimidation against both members and officers.

It requires cabinet member for organisational excellence Rob Jandy to put the request to the members’ development team in addition to work already being carried out.

Coun Jandy said: “We have to accept that social norms of behaviour that were once implicit now must be made explicit.”

He said there were two solutions to bullying and intimidation – the training of councillors and support if they faced such threats and a clear understanding for everybody as to what is acceptable behaviour.

He added: “The onus is on every one of us to ensure that Swindon Borough Council is a safe place to work.”

Coun Donachie thanked Coun Manro for speaking up, saying: “He has done more for this motion than anything I could ever say.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour.

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