Audio: New council chairman criticised for ''joke''

THE new chairman of Tendring District Council has refused to apologise after he made a “joke” in a public meeting about Alzheimer's disease.

James Hore

EXCLUSIVE

THE new chairman of Tendring District Council has refused to apologise after he made a “joke” in a public meeting about Alzheimer's disease.

Nick Turner was nominated to the prestigious role by fellow councillors and made the gaffe as he announced his chosen charities for his year in office.


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His comment, made at the full council meeting last week, were recorded and placed on the authority's website.

In the audio, the Conservative councillor from Frinton can be heard saying: “I have chosen some charities.

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“I have chosen, I think… The Alzheimer's Association.”

The comment was met with near silence, but after a small murmur Mr Turner said: “Thank you. Oh dear, wake up.”

Mr Turner, 61, told the EADT anyone who did not find it funny had “not got a sense of humour”.

However, Paul Dunnery, area manager for East Anglia at the Alzheimer's Society, said the comment was ill-founded.

He said: “It's disappointing that the chairman of Tendring District Council chose to make light of an incredibly serious issue, particularly as he has recognised the impact of dementia on the local community when offering to support Alzheimer's Society in fundraising.

“Such humour, no matter how light hearted the intention, adds to the stigma that people with dementia face on a daily basis and discourages some from even seeking a diagnosis.

“Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are no laughing matter for over 45,000 people in East Anglia who currently live with the condition, as well as their family and friends who are struggling every day to support their loved ones.''

He said the society was “keen” to work with Mr Turner and has invited him to visit a local service to “develop an understanding of dementia from the point of view of those affected”.

Fellow councillor Pierre Oxley was at the meeting and said: “I just think when you are chairman, regardless of your political persuasion; people should not make those type of comments.

“You have to be beyond reproach - some people won't find it offensive but others will and when you are a figurehead of the district council and the organisation and the district you can't be doing that type of thing.”

Last night, Mr Turner said: “It was just a joke - I am sorry that they have not got a sense of humour.

“I know a lot of people with Alzheimer's, my father in law died from something far worse and I dealt with a lot of it as an hotelier. I know a lot about it.

“Anything positive that draws attention to it has got to be good. Anybody that goes round trying to be po-faced is doing no one any good, least of all themselves.

“It was just an amusing aside and it has worked and brought it to everybody's attention.”

He said there was a significant shortage of beds for people suffering with dementia and said that was why he had chosen Alzheimer's as one of his charities.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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