A LEADING Labour councillor has apologised after he posted offensive comments on a social networking website about the Basildon mayoress.

Phil Rackley, the former deputy leader of the Labour group, was called up before a Joint Standards Committee board after mayor Mo Larkin put in an official complaint about a string of “offensive comments” on Facebook.

After two-and-a-half hours of debate the committee, headed up Conservative councillor Tony Archer, found that Mr Rackley had acted in his official capacity as a councillor and that he was in breach of code of conduct and that the comments were disrespectful towards Mrs Larkin.

Mr Rackley admitted he had posted comments under a photo of Mrs Larkin which said she looked like “lamb dressed as mutton” on the site.

Francis Randle, who defended Mr Rackley at the meeting, said the comments were actually “complimentary” and were not meant to be offensive.

Mr Rackley, who was accompanied by his wife Pat Rackley and Lynda Gordon, the former Labour group leader,issued a public apology to Mrs Larkin in the meeting.

He said: “I would like to apologise to the mayor for the comments that I made on the save the Gloucester Park Facebook page.

It was certainly not my intention to cause any offence or distress to the mayor and I very much regret that the mayor felt the need to take the action she has, but understand that this reflects the feeling the mayor had when made aware of my comments.

“I very much regret any distress and upset my taking part in the Facebook caption competition caused and hope that the mayor accepts it was not done to cause her any personal offence or harm the relationship that exists between elected members and the office of mayor of the council.”

The committee decided after Mr Rackley had made the public apology it wouldn’t take any further action and that the apology will appear in the minutes of the meeting.

John Handley, who is Mrs Larkin’s partner acted as her representative in the meeting, said: “Mr Rackley was active in attacking Mrs Larkin during this period last year.

“Some of the comments were hurtful and caused a lot of pain and anxiety and my case is that Mr Rackley’s comments were part of a clever campaign that incited worse comments towards Mrs Larkin. They were very offensive and these comments incited worse remarks.”

Mrs Larkin, who shook Mr Rackley’s hand after the hearing, said afterwards: “I am glad this is all over and that we can finally move on, this should act as a deterrent for people who are using social networking websites to be careful with what they post on them in future.”