Go blind: The NHS doesn’t care
When he was growing up, Philip was unable to speak and suffered terrible fits and seizures. His condition was considered incurable and only going to get worse.
But his mother — battling medical opinion — refused to give up. In 1989 she found a surgeon willing to take drastic action. And so it was that at just nine years old, Philip had the left side of his brain — the half that was causing the defects — removed entirely.
Against the odds, the operation was a success. Until the surgery, Philip had never uttered a word and after it he began speaking in sentences. Nobody has ever learnt to talk as late as Philip.
Now Eva Ohnesorge, 64, faces a new fight to get the best for her son. Mr Ohnesorge suffers from a rare illness called Sturge-Weber syndrome, its telltale indicator a birthmark that covers one side of the head and over one eye. The port wine stain is spreading and — Mrs Ohnesorge fears — will further damage her son’s eyesight.
Mr Ohnesorge needs special laser treatment to control the growth but the NHS has refused to pay for treatment.
“They used to fund this treatment and now they won’t,” said Mrs Ohnesorge, 64. “The laser treatment will stop the growth. In America they do it all the time but here they refuse.
“I sent them photographs; all the evidence; reports about how important the laser treatment is and they just ignore it. My worry now is it will not only restrict his vision but blind him.”
Mr Ohnesorge’s NHS authority in East Sussex informed her it does not fund laser treatment and that in this case “funding was declined as there was insufficient evidence of clinical exceptionality”.
A report to the local NHS trust by an eye specialist concluded that if the port stain was left to progress “this could result in his left upper lid being affected. If this did start to interfere with his left temporal vision then he would certainly be more handicapped.” The consultant said he did not have enough experience with Sturge-Weber syndrome to quantify what further damage might be caused.
The decision not to fund the treatment follows changes in policy that labelled laser treatment as a low priority procedure which means NHS funding is not normally available.
The treatment costs about £3,000 per course, which Mrs Ohnesorge, who has spent £150,000 on medical care for her son, can no longer afford. She used to run restaurants but has given up largely to take care of her child.
Sturge-Weber causes a disorder in the blood vessels of the brain and one of its effects is severe epilepsy. “My whole life has been taken up looking after Philip,” said Mrs Ohnesorge. “They told me nothing could be done, to forget it. He was so ill. He would have 25 fits a day.”
Doctors gave the boy powerful drugs to control the epilepsy but Mrs Ohnesorge was informed her son had suffered brain damage as a result and would never be able to speak. It convinced Mrs Ohnesorge the drugs were holding her son back. On the advice of an American expert, she opted for the surgery.
Today, Mr Ohnesorge is a remarkable testament to his mother’s determination.
He lives in special accommodation in Eastbourne and has some learning and physical disabilities. His right arm — on the opposite side to the damaged part of the brain — suffers from paralysis and he limps due to problems with his right leg.
But he works in a Red Cross charity shop as volunteer supervisor. “I have a very big role,” he explained with pride. “It is keeping all the volunteers in the shop happy. I also work the till.” He is also a first aider and works at an air show in the first aid tent.
It is his mother’s birthday soon. “I will do something for her very special,” he said, the words tripping effortlessly off his tongue.
A spokesman for the local trust in Eastbourne said it had considered the funding request “at great length” in March, and decided the risk of the lesion affecting his vision “was only speculative at this stage”.
She added that the panel was “prepared to review their decision should the consultant ophthalmologist deem it necessary”.
Amid ever-expanding demand, more than 6,000 NHS hospital beds lost
More than 6,000 hospital beds have been closed since the Coalition came to power in the last election, at a time when accident and emergency departments are struggling to cope with a rise in the number of patients.
Critics have said the decreasing number of beds is leading to frail patients often being discharged too early, or even during the night, which also causes a knock-on effect of more admissions when they have to return to hospital.
The number of general and acute beds available overnight has fallen from 110, 568 between April and June 2010 – during which the election took place – to 104,011 between October and December 2012. This amounts to around 50 beds a week since the last election, according to the Daily Mail.
Ministers said the decrease in bed numbers is because operations are now quicker, meaning patients don’t need to stay in overnight. But critics say wider cuts mean there are no services in the community for frail patients who are discharged early, and in some hospitals patients have to wait on trolleys for hours at a time for a bed to become available.
Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre recently showed an increase of more than one million people going to A&E units in the last year. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said changes to out of hours care, which he said caused a “dramatic fall in confidence” had had a huge impact on emergency services.
Earlier this month the Foundation Trust Network warned casualty units could be close to collapse within a year. There have also been reports of short staffing of units.
Dr Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, said unless money is put into community services removing beds will create more problems. He said: “Without this investment, patients will inevitably end up in A&E departments and hospitals for treatment they could be receiving in the community, placing further pressure on the system.”
But Lord Howe said the proportion of beds occupied has remained roughly the same, at between 84 and 87 per cent since 2010.
He said: “The reduction in bed numbers reflects more people being treated in the community and improvements in surgery which means more people are treated as day cases and don’t have to stay overnight in hospital.”
Rise of the supersized schools in Britain: Baby boom and immigration behind increase in primaries with more than 1,000 pupils
The size of primary schools has rocketed in the last three years as Britain deals with an explosion in the birth rate fuelled by the rise in young immigrant families.
There are 60 per cent more supersize primaries with more than 700 pupils – including some with more than 1,000 – than in 2010, according to Department for Education statistics.
While three years ago there were no schools with more than 1,000 pupils, it is now becoming more common to have six classes in each year.
There are now 130 schools with more than 700 pupils, compared with just 80 three years ago.
Supersized schools are most prevalent in deprived areas, particularly east London and central Birmingham, where cheap council housing is available for families.
Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, already has 1,200 pupils and will expand to accommodate 1,600 by 2014, according to the Guardian.
Local authorities are forcing headteachers to open mobile classrooms on playing fields and in playgrounds, music rooms and libraries, in order to comply with laws meaning councils must find all children a school place, the newspaper reported.
But a National Union of Teachers study earlier this year found a fifth of areas where new free schools were being built, under the Government’s scheme, already had at least 10 per cent of places going spare.
Colin Ross, a school governor and Sheffield city council shadow cabinet member, said primary schools should not exceed 420 pupils – or two classes of 30 in each year.
He told the Guardian: ‘Parents want to know that primary school teachers know their children. If a school becomes bigger than 420, it is very difficult for staff to know each child.’
Bob Garton, head of the 1,200-pupil Gascoigne Primary in Barking, east London, said: ‘We have no open space. We had a playing field, but temporary classrooms are on that now. We don’t have one spare room. We are full to bursting.’
But Kay Jones, headteacher of Pinkwell primary in Hayes, Middlesex, which currently has 983 pupils and will expand to 1,200 by 2016, said size was not a barrier to good teaching.
‘Class sizes are the same as in other smaller schools and we make sure there are only 300 children in the playground at any one time,’ she said.
Studies have shown that pupils may be less likely to be bullied in larger schools but research on whether large primaries are better or worse for children are inconclusive.
Fish oil ‘can restore the brain after junk food’: Diets rich in omega-3s play key role in reversing damage caused by high fats (?)
This is just the latest obeisance in the fish oil religion. They have no new data, just a literature survey. As computer people say, Garbage in, garbage out
Fish oil can counter the negative effect junk food has on the brain, say scientists.
More than a decade of research has shown that high-fat diets can impact the brain by disrupting ‘neurogenesis’, a process that generates new nerve cells.
Now University of Liverpool researchers have discovered that diets rich in omega-3s, such as fish oil, can prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that controls feeding, learning and memory.
The team from the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease originally set out to look at research from across to world to see whether the data suggested that omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss.
However, although data from the 185 research papers indicated fish oils do not have a direct impact on this process, it found that they play a significant role in reversing the damage high fats can cause the brain.
Researcher Dr Lucy Pickavance explained: ‘Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume.
‘Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.
‘These changes can be seen in the brain’s structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
‘Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects. We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes.’
The research papers showed that on high-fat diets hormones that are usually secreted from body tissues into the circulation after eating – which protect neurons and stimulate their growth – are prevented from passing into the brain by increased circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides.
Molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced.
But it appears – in studies with animal models – that omega-3s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides, and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.
Dr Pickavance added: ‘Fish oils don’t appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets.
‘They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.’
Medical use of Cannabis and MS
Like many of those facing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Barry Rudd was willing to try anything to be well again.
The property developer from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had been an avid three-times-a-week gym-goer when, in 2004, he was given the devastating news.
Just 53 at the time, he had started feeling tired, and his foot began dragging when he walked. After being referred to a neurologist in June 2005, the diagnosis was finally given: primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
One of the more uncommon forms of the disease, affecting only 15 per cent of sufferers, it causes a steady decline as symptoms worsen.
The condition, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, slowly robs sufferers of their balance, movement and speech, causing stiffness, numbness, insomnia, pain and exhaustion.
There was little doctors could do to help Barry and he was drawn by desperation into the murky world of alternative medicine – paying more than £20,000 for bogus treatments in Holland and Poland that had no effect on his condition.
Finally, in late 2010 he saw an article online about a new drug called Sativex. The oral spray is derived from the cannabis plant – but without any of the associated dangers or side effects – and works by dampening down the over-activity in the nervous system that damages the muscles, inhibiting movement.
‘I mentioned it to my neurologist, who said, “You can’t get it in this area. If you want it you have to buy it privately.” So he gave me a private prescription. I went to my local chemist who charged me £550.’
The supply lasted just six weeks, but the effects were almost immediate. ‘Within a few days I could feel the benefit and after a couple of weeks my symptoms were almost completely gone. I’d say I was 80 per cent better,’ says Barry.
But, unable to get an NHS prescription, after three months Barry could no longer afford the treatment. His symptoms flooded back. To add to his misery, he found that a few miles away at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, MS patients with symptoms similar to his are being prescribed the drug.
According to Dr Willy Notcutt, consultant in pain management at James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Sativex can not only alleviate existing problems but could hold back the progression of MS.
‘Sativex is licensed only for the relief of spasticity [tightness in the muscles that affect movement] and found effective in half of cases,’ he says. ‘Many patients have discovered what Barry did: it also relieves other symptoms, such as chronic insomnia.’
A major review of trials last December concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant Sativex’s routine use with MS, yet Dr Notcutt is convinced of its effectiveness.
‘We found that patients have substantially improved sleep,’ he says. ‘Studies on animals have shown some reduction in disease progression. We know it has an effect on protecting the nervous system.’
The problems have arisen because of the way certain clinical commissioning groups (CCGs – the bodies that have replaced primary care trusts) do their sums. A single bottle costing £125 will contain 90 sprays.
The drug has not yet been assessed by the NHS guidance body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – which means funding decisions are not uniform across CCGs.
The result is that it is not being prescribed widely. Earlier this year, British charity the MS Society found that just two in 100 patients were using a symptom-reducing treatment such as Sativex.
Laura Weir, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the MS Society, says: ‘We know that Sativex is not being prescribed in some areas and in other areas it is. We think this is down to CCGs making their own decisions at a local level.’
In 2011 the Midlands Therapeutic Review and Advisory Committee – an independent advisory group that provides guidance on pharmaceutical treatments in the West Midlands – recommended against prescribing Sativex, stating there was ‘inadequate evidence for efficacy and/or safety’.
Weir insists: ‘Their decision, which has triggered similar ones elsewhere, is based on inaccurate analysis of the data, and on the cost impact of the treatment rather than cost effectiveness. We wrote to them to highlight this but the committee has not reviewed the policy.
‘Prescription rates for Sativex in the UK are low. It is a licensed treatment for MS and has undergone extensive clinical testing that found it to be safe and effective. We strongly believe eligible people should be given the opportunity to try treatments that could benefit them.’
Barry turned to a nurse for advice. ‘She told me other patients buy cannabis and mix it into cakes.’
He refuses to consider this option. ‘If there’s a drug that’s legal – Sativex – and that works for me, why can’t I get it on the NHS? The future for me looks grim.’
Dr Notcutt is equally angry. He says: ‘When you find patients, as I have, whose lives are transformed by this drug you’re left wondering: are we prepared as a society to leave people in often agonising pain? Or do we provide them with a medicine that might help them?’
Global warming is freezing the Welsh
Government figures uncovered by the WalesOnline reveal that three areas of Wales were among the top five local authorities areas showing the biggest drops in electricity use between 2010 and 2011, while councils have slashed consumption of gas by up to 9.2% in a year.
The figures – which track energy consumption between 2005 and 2011 through a survey of meter readings across the UK – show Powys (6.3%), Ceredigion (5.4%) and Pembrokeshire (5.2%) were ranked among the top five areas in the UK for the biggest cutbacks in electricity use.
Newport also saw the fourth biggest fall in gas usage – down 9.2% in a year – while Denbighshire and Ceredigion are 9th and 10th with 8.9% falls.
The statistics come after energy giant Centrica posted profits of £602m.
Rising energy bills amid a squeeze on household incomes are prompting “thousands” to cut back on energy use, a consumer group warned in reaction to the figures, with fuel poverty now affecting one in three in Wales.
Despite huge cutbacks from some councils, Gwynedd registered the most expensive electricity bills in Wales with an average of £804 a year – £150 above the UK average – but had the smallest gas bills in Wales at £561.
Blaenau Gwent had the cheapest average in Wales, and third-cheapest in the UK, at £514 for electricity, but the biggest for gas at £707, against a British average of £649.
The figures came as Wales Office Minister Stephen Crabb and Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon met with leaders of high-energy use industries in round-table talks in Cardiff about how business can cope with soaring prices.
The discussions in Cardiff Bay included Tata Steel, Valero, Toyota and Celsa, and concentrated on a consultation on the impact of energy costs on businesses’ operations, as well as complying with climate change obligations.
Lindsey Kearton, policy manager at Consumer Futures in Wales, said it was not a surprise that “thousands” are cutting back on their energy use.
“People are struggling to pay their bills against a backdrop of salary freezes, concerns about job security and rising food bills,” she said.
“Fuel poverty affects around a third of households in Wales. Those who are fuel poor are more likely to turn their heating down below the level adequate for their well-being, and more likely to live in energy inefficient homes which are poorly insulated and prone to dampness.”
William Powell, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on energy matters, said Welsh families were facing “increasingly unaffordable” energy bills, despite the cutbacks.
He said: “In order to tackle this problem effectively and protect people from fuel poverty we have to take further steps to ensure that our homes become more efficient, and that our energy network becomes less dependant on increasingly expensive fossil fuels such as gas – the rising cost of which is responsible for the majority of the recent price hikes we’ve been forced to endure.”
He added: “The British energy economy is getting close to a tipping point – in terms of energy production – where renewable technologies are likely soon to be cheaper to develop, install and operate than traditional fossil fuel alternatives.
“When this transition occurs, it is essential to the Welsh economy that we are on the right side of this decisive shift.”
Tory Shadow Communities Minister Mark Isherwood said suppliers had a responsibility to manage tariffs so consumers were getting the lowest one possible.
“Energy prices clearly have a huge impact upon households and recent hikes were another blow to many families already tightening their belts,” he said.
He added: “While the UK Government – through the Energy Bill – does all it can to support communities here, there is far more that Welsh Labour Ministers can – and should – be doing.
“Wales remains the only part of the UK without a fuel policy advisory forum and its reinstatement has been recommended by the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor.”
Plaid Cymru’s energy spokesman Llyr Gruffydd said: “Heating and energy costs are often higher here than in other parts of the UK due to older housing stock which contributes to the problem.
“Wales is an energy-rich nation and so it seems particularly unjust that Welsh families are finding themselves struggling to pay energy bills.
Scottish land owners to lose wind farm gravy
The green eyes of envy are positively fluorescent in Scotland
THE leader of the Scottish Government review of landownership yesterday pledged to examine ways of redistributing the cash wealthy lairds make from wind farms to benefit the less-advantaged.
Alison Elliot, chair of the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG), said the issue would be investigated amid concerns that aristocrats are benefiting from the renewables revolution while the poor grapple with fuel poverty.
Dr Elliot, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “We have got to the stage where this is one of the things which we will be looking at – investigating if the benefits people derive from large-scale renewable projects are distributed as well as they might be.”
She had been struck, she said, by a document submitted by the Kirk to the LRRG, which criticised the “inequitable” situation and the “unacceptable” levels of rural fuel poverty.
The Kirk’s response to a consultation launched by the LRRG was critical of a system that has seen landowners such as the Duke of Roxburghe and the earls of Moray and Glasgow earn large sums for renting their land to wind-turbine energy firms. Critics point out that landowners rent their land to renewable generators, whose wind farms are subsidised by extra levies on ordinary electricity consumers.
Tory MEP Struan Stevenson’s estimates suggest that the Duke of Roxburghe could net £1.5 million a year from a wind farm on the Lammermuir Hills. The Earl of Moray is estimated to receive £2 million a year from a wind farm near Stirling. The Earl of Glasgow could be earning upwards of £300,000 a year from turbines on his Kelburn estate.
In its submission, the Kirk said such figures represented a “significant transfer of income from domestic electricity consumers, including those living in fuel poverty, to landowners”.
It said: “The Church is concerned this redistribution of income is tending to promote inequality. The ownership of land in Scotland remains deeply inequitable and the new landed income from wind power entrenches that inequality.”
It added: “A paradox of life in rural Scotland is that the rapid growth of renewable energy is matched by a growth in fuel poverty… This is unacceptable and if landowners are gaining financial rewards from renewables while a growing number of households are living in fuel poverty, then the strong case for re-examining land reform to ensure the financial benefits of renewables are shared more equitably is strengthened further.”
Dr Elliot said the Kirk’s submission was a “very creative” way of looking at land reform. She added that the LRRG, which will produce a final report next April, could make a contribution to overcoming fuel poverty, producing affordable housing and improving diet. The issue of wind farms, she said, would be looked at in the second phase of the LRRG’s review, which is about to begin.
The group was established by the Scottish Government to consider the further redistribution of land by extending right-to-buy legislation.
In an interview for Newscast magazine, published yesterday, Dr Elliot told Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik, a consultant for Smith Gore and a landowner at the centre of a storm over plans for wind turbines on his estate: “Land is implicated in providing food, space for housing and in overcoming fuel poverty.
“We are an energy rich country so why do we have fuel poverty? That’s another lens through which to look at land reform and I think that the land and the people who own it can make a contribution to the better good of society through that lens as well.”
What you get when “There’s no such thing as right and wrong”
With a heavily-armed policeman guarding the playground, assault rifle at the ready, it could be the scene of a terror alert. In fact, this is a routine patrol just yards from a suburban primary school.
The show of force is designed to calm residents of an estate plagued by gang shootings. In the past four months there have been nine gun-related incidents in Luton linked to the Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm estates.
In the latest, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the back early on Saturday morning. He may never walk again.
The violence has left law- abiding families so terrified they welcome the patrols, even if they risk scaring children. Faye Bell, 37, a mother of two, said: ‘The armed police might seem heavy-handed to some people but to us they are hugely reassuring.
‘It’s very sad that it has come to this but we need the police to be armed so they can protect our kids.’
The officers, with a dog unit, have been patrolling the estate near the rundown Purley shopping centre all week.
Marsh Farm residents told the Daily Mail yesterday that the armed patrols had given them the confidence to go outside. Shannon Read, 17, said: ‘I don’t really come out of my house at all so it’s reassuring to know these patrols are here. ‘I knew the lad who got shot on Saturday so it has been even more terrifying recently.’
Darren Putney, 46, added: ‘Some of the children on the way to school or in the play area look frightened. ‘But the police need to make their presence known.’
The officers carry Heckler and Koch G36C assault rifles with 5.56mm calibre ammunition that can pierce body armour.
They were introduced in response to the threat of a ‘marauding’ terror attack, like the one in Mumbai involving a gang of men with semi- automatic rifles. The officer pictured also has a Heckler and Koch baton gun which fires ‘less lethal’ plastic bullets.
He is likely to have a hidden personal protection weapon such as a Glock 17 pistol.
Parents in Luton appear resigned to the patrols. Lisa Conway, 25, a mother of three, said: ‘A Taser gun is not going to be enough when you are dealing with armed gangs.’
Bedfordshire Police have also invoked Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, allowing them to stop and search without suspicion.
Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Richer said: ‘Obviously we are concerned that there could be further incidents and we are doing everything we can do to prevent it.’
More modern Britain: Councillors ‘trading insults and speaking at official meetings in Bengali’
Councillors are trading insults and speaking in foreign languages at meetings, prompting concern that it undermined public accountability, it emerged tonight.
Some elected representatives have been accused of slipping into their native tongue at Town Hall gatherings, instead of conducting official business in English.
Some visitors have complained they have been unable to follow proceedings because, when councillors lose their tempers, they appear to trade insults in a foreign language.
Critics tonight attacked councils which allowed public officials to speak foreign languages at meetings, prompting fears the “divisive” practice undermined transparency.
The controversy emerged today at one of London’s biggest local authorities after a councillor formally complained that he was insulted by a colleague in the Bengali language, widely spoken by people from Bangladesh.
One councillor at Tower Hamlet’s council, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was accused of calling colleague Abdal Ullah, a “shurer batcha”, which is translated to mean “Son of a pig”.
The comments came during a heated exchange between the pair at a meeting last month, triggering a row within the as the slur is considered extremely offensive to Muslims.
While Cllr Ullah, a Labour councillor, protested at the insult, many English-speaking councillors and other public visitors failed to realise its significance because it was issued in a foreign language.
Some councillors later claimed the issue was widespread and did not just involve trading insults.
It is understood that other members of the public have complained to Town Hall bosses about the use of Bengali during meetings.
It was also suggested that some of the Bengali-speaking councillors have been forced translate for their colleagues.
In a letter to the council’s Standards Committee, Councillor Ullah raised concerns about the lack of power to enforce only English being used in council meetings.
“Whilst we may have our differences, councillors should afford one another courtesy in our exchanges rather than resorting to unnecessary and abusive insults,” he wrote.
“In my view the use of Bengali or other languages – other than in translation during public questions or petitions and so on – disrupts the transparency and openness of meeting by preventing some present from understanding the exchanges taking place.”
Tonight, Peter Golds, the leader of the council’s Conservative group, said Bengali is was being “used in a very foul manner”.
He added: “At a full council meeting the language should be one that all members of the public should understand.
“It is a very serious problem here that a number of councillors insist on speaking in Bengali.”
“It is not just when they get emotional. It happens a lot. Even when they are travelling in a lift before going into a meeting, they will suddenly begin talking in Bengali.”
Brandon Lewis, the Local Government minister, last night criticised the revelations.
“This is a deeply worrying and divisive move. Council meetings should be held in English,” said the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth.
“Using foreign languages not only undermines transparency and accountability, but it threatens to promote segregation and harm community cohesion.
“Councils in diverse communities should be encouraging everyone to learn and speak English and not practise the politics of division.”
According to official figures, more than half of Tower Hamlets’ population are from non-white British ethnic groups.
Almost a third thirty per cent are of Bangladeshi origin, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in the 2011 Census.
A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said tonight: “Council proceedings are carried out in English and members’ and officers’ conduct in the chamber is subject to the council’s code of conduct.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said it was the right of councillors to speak in a foreign language dependent upon each local council’s constitution.
The councillor at the centre of the row did not respond to inquiries.
Council vetoes flag of St George after concerns raised about links to Crusades
A local council decided against flying the flag of St George after concerns were raised that it would offend the town’s 16 Muslim residents.
Eleanor Jackson, a university lecturer, said the red and white symbol could cause upset in Radstock, Somerset, because it was used during the Crusades 1,000 years ago.
The Labour councillor voiced her concerns at a meeting called to discuss which flag should be purchased to fly atop the town’s repaired civic flagpole.
She said: “My big problem is that it is offensive to some Muslims, but even more so that it has been hijacked by the far right.
“My thoughts are we ought to drop it for 20 years.”
Radstock Town Council, which serves a local population of more than 5,600 residents, eventually decided to purchase a Union flag to fly on Armistice Day.
The rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride movement will be flown at “appropriate” times of the year while an In Bloom flag will celebrate the town’s achievements in the gardening competition.
The objections raised about the flag of St George were branded “oversensitive” by the local Muslim community while the Muslim Council of Britain said England’s patron saint should not be associated with “any hatred of Muslims”.
Spokeswoman Nasima Begum said: “St George needs to take his rightful place as a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred.”
Rizwan Ahmed, spokesman for the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society said: “I think they are going a bit far here. “It is political correctness going a bit too far.
“Use by the far right is one thing, but to say that Muslims are offended I don’t think is correct. We understand the flag is part of this country’s heritage, and in fact many many Muslims will identify as being British themselves.
“In actual fact we are normal people. We have a sense of humour and have the same concerns as everyone else – we are not just some single group.”
Lesley Mansell, the council chair, insisted that the discussion focused primarily on buying a Union flag.
“We were presented a list of every flag we can fly as a local authority but the council agreed that we did not want to fly all of them and simply wanted to purchase our own Union Jack,” she said.
“The statement made by one councillor regarding the St George’s flag was not really taken into consideration.”