Comments on mental health lead to calls for Babergh councillor to quit

Babergh councillor Margaret Maybury. Picture: BABERGH COUNCIL

Babergh councillor Margaret Maybury. Picture: BABERGH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Senior Babergh councillor Margaret Maybury is facing calls to stand down after she was accused of making derogatory comments about people with mental health problems at a conference on the subject.

Anne Humphrys of Suffolk Parent Carers Network. Picture: ANNE HUMPHRYS

Anne Humphrys of Suffolk Parent Carers Network. Picture: ANNE HUMPHRYS - Credit: Archant

Mrs Maybury is Babergh’s cabinet member for communities and in that capacity attended a workshop in Elmswell looking at how mental health could be improved in the area.

Soon after the start of the event she was heard to comment that people used mental health “as an excuse all the time” and that she was too busy to stay for the event.

Mrs Maybury’s comments prompted Anne Humphrys from the Suffolk Parent Carers Network, one of the organisers of the event, to raise concerns about her council role – she could not believe that someone who felt like that about mental illness could take the decisions needed on the subject.

Opposition Labour councillors have called for her to leave the cabinet.

Mrs Humphrys said: “The fact that an elected member who represents Communities and Engagement has such a derogatory view of people experiencing mental health issues and considers them to be ‘using mental health as an excuse all the time and jumping on the bandwagon’ is of grave concern.

“These would be unacceptable in any context but especially where we are trying to build inclusive communities and from an elected member who was there representing her district council.

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“The boroughs and districts are an essential part of the system wide transformation that is needed. Had Councillor Maybury stayed to hear me speak at the end of the morning session she would have heard me say: ‘The change can only happen if each and every one of us plays our part in making this happen.’

“The people of east and west Suffolk want to see changes in mental health and emotional wellbeing services so that they meet their needs.

“That starts with individuals and organisations understanding that mental health is their business and they have a responsibility to make and drive the changes we need to make.”

Mrs Maybury denied she was unsympathetic to those suffering with their mental health and said: “I feel that I have been misquoted. Through personal family experience and caring for someone myself, I absolutely understand the impact of poor mental health.”

Mrs Humphrys wrote to Babergh leader John Ward to outline her concerns.

Mr Ward said in a reply: “I am sorry to hear that you have been upset by comments made by Cllr Maybury.

“She did contact me first thing this morning to let me know about the content of a conversation she had with someone at the event yesterday so I was aware of the situation before I received your e-mail.

“Although not directly involved with health or social care provision, there is much that a district council can do to create an environment that promotes mental as well as physical well-being, from ensuring sufficient housing of the right mix of tenure types is available to creating safe and pleasant communities and the provision of leisure and recreational facilities.

“Babergh is working hard in all these areas and achieved much in the past few years. Cllr Maybury has been involved in driving many of these initiatives.

“Moreover, Babergh District Council is fully committed to supporting all people, including those with poor mental health. For example this year we jointly hosted an event to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and today, on Mental Health Awareness Day, we have specially trained colleagues talking to our staff about their own mental health and wellbeing.

“I will be discussing this with Cllr Maybury to ensure that she is more understanding when discussing this matter in the future.”

Meanwhile the opposition Labour group at Babergh has put down a motion for next week’s meeting of the full council proposing it should take more action to improve mental health for its employees and across the district. Labour councillor Luke Cresswell said Mrs Maybury had to leave the cabinet after the comments.

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