A Conservative councillor accused of sharing racist tweets has been found not to have breached Stroud District Council's code of conduct.

The council received 42 complaints in relation to tweets from Chalford councillor Debbie Young, but the council's monitoring officer has concluded they 'cannot be construed to be racist'.

The findings have prompted anger from Labour, Lim Dem and Green councillors who said the judgement showed 'very limited understanding' of racism and have called for the code of conduct to be reviewed.

Members of the Stroud Against Rascim Facebook page have also criticised the findings, with one commenter saying they showed 'complete ignorance on how social media platforms are used to spread racism, bigotry and hate'.

In a now deleted tweet in response to to a tweet by Amplify Stroud which showed a video of a demonstrator giving a speech to protestors outside the Sub Rooms, Cllr Young stated: "Actually all lives matter an I for one have never taken race into account. I accept the anger but this needs to stop and to stop now to stop coronavirus spreading."

The council's monitoring officer Patrick Arran said: "My conclusion is that, whether or not it was wise for Councillor Young to enter into the debate given the strength of feeling, the tweet was not intended to be and was not capable of being construed as racist or intended to diminish the Black Lives Matter cause."

Cllr Young also retweeted a tweet from Katie Hopkins which stated: "The sad truth is that the real minority ethnic in London is White Brits. It's just we don't have any of the protections this confers."

Mr Arran concluded: "Whether one agrees with the proposition contained in the tweet or not, it was a statement of the author’s opinion and does not contain any pejorative element based on race."

In response to Cllr Young retweeting a tweet that said the Black Lives Matter movement had set race relations back decades he said: "It is certainly a sweeping and unfortunate statement impugning the BLM movement as a whole when the violence had been perpetrated by a minority, the majority of protest having taken place peacefully and without incident.

"However, like the Katie Hopkins tweet, no matter what the views of the author generally, this tweet cannot be construed to be racist in content."

The complainants alleged that Councillor Young has breached Paragraphs 3.1 (c) and (f) of the Code of Conduct adopted by Stroud District Council. This states: "Members must (c) Not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute; (f) Not do anything which may cause the Council to breach the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Arran stated: "On the basis that I have concluded that, in my opinion, neither Councillor Young’s tweet nor those that she re-tweeted were racist, it cannot be said that the complaints are made out or that Councillor Young’s actions brought her office into disrepute.

"Even if Councillor Young’s actions were capable of bringing the office of councillor into disrepute, they would in my opinion fall clearly within the ambit of Article 10 of the European Convention which provides that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.

"Even if I considered her comments to be in breach of equality legislation, Councillor Young was not acting in her role as a Councillor, was not acting as a representative of the Council and the Council had no involvement in the activity. Councillor Young carried out any activity on her own account. Therefore, it cannot be said that Councillor Young caused “the Council to breach the Equality Act 2010."

"What Councillor Young wrote and re-tweeted was lawful. The tweets were not directed at the complainants and it appears to me that most, if not all of the complainants, went looking for tweets on Councillor Young’s Twitter account as a result of her commenting on the Amplify Stroud Twitter feed.

"Given the divergence of views between Councillor Young and the complainants, it seems improbable that they follow her. Neither can it be suggested that the tweets were directed at the complainants personally; in effect, they chose to read the tweet and re-tweets.

"It is clear from the language used in the complaints that the complainants profoundly disagree with Councillor Young’s views but that is the nature of freedom of speech. It is perhaps not generally understood that anyone is entitled to say what they like of or about someone provided they do not act unlawfully."

"I am satisfied that Councillor Young fully appreciates the depth of feeling generated by her actions and informs me that she has taken steps to ensure that she understands both sides of this debate. I have also spoken to the Conservative Group Leader who has agreed that Councillor Young will undertake any race awareness training that the Council is currently arranging."

A Stroud District Council spokesperson said: “The council condemns racism and is committed to promoting equality and tackling discrimination.

“The Monitoring Officer considered the complaints against a councillor in accordance with the law and the Council’s procedures and set out his reasoning in detail in his letter. He sought advice from leading counsel on this issue. No further comment will be made.”

A statement from Cllrs Doina Cornell, Martin Whiteside and Ken Tucker - leaders of Labour, Green and Lib Dems on the council respectively - said: "In response to the findings of the investigation into the complaints by Stroud District Council’s Monitoring Officer regarding social media tweets by Cllr Debbie Young, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat Alliance leaders wish to wish to put on record our disappointment that explanations for the judgement shows very limited understanding of the lived experience of direct and indirect racism, the impact of structural and institutional racism or the experiences that sparked the Black Lives Matter protests around the world.

"We note that this judgement is the outcome of an independent legal process, which is not part of the political decision making of the Council.

"We stand in solidarity with members of Stroud district’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and call for a review of the Council’s members’ Code of Conduct, to ensure it meets the needs of today’s society. We support mandatory equality and racism awareness training for all members and staff of the Council.

"We call upon the leader of the Conservative Group to publicly censure Cllr Young for her tweets, and for the Conservative Party to carry out an investigation into her social media activities in relation to their stated code of conduct for its elected representatives, which expects them to support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and the absence of all inappropriate behaviour."