A COUNCILLOR has come in for criticism for ‘body shaming’ another member during Mental Health Awareness week with a reference to a popular children’s story.

Councillor Christopher Ecclestone took to Facebook on Monday to criticise Liberal Democrat town councillors for ‘trawling the barrel’ by backing Cllr Richard Rowles to continue in his role as mayor.

His comments were accompanied by an image of Sir Topham Hatt, known as the Fat Controller in the Thomas the Tank Engine books and TV series.

He later added a further comment, writing: “I’d rather walk barefoot over broken glass than suffer another dose of the Fat Controller.”

Cllr Ecclestone, who sits on both the town and borough council, has been criticised by Cllr Phil North, leader of the borough council, who says the comments bring the authority into disrepute.

“I don’t get too upset about the use of humour in politics,” Cllr North said, “however making personal attacks in the form of body shaming another member crosses the line – it’s unacceptable and I think very sad.

“This week is Mental Health Awareness week, with a theme of ‘be kind’. I would, therefore, urge Councillor Ecclestone to consider the impact his insults about a person’s weight can have on their mental health.

“And whilst this is primarily an Andover Independents Party/Andover Alliance town council spat – as a borough councillor too, comments like this bring Test Valley into disrepute. There’s no need for it.”

Another town councillor told the Advertiser they were aware of members of the public lodging formal complaints about the comments. Others were similarly critical.

Cllr Luigi Gregori said: “Unfortunately, some people might regard the posts worthy of a serious councillor. I would suspect that the good Reverend Awdry, who created the wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine stories, would not be delighted to see one of his characters used in such a way.”

And Cllr Rowles, the subject of the comments, added: “It’s a real shame, isn’t it, that people who are supposed to be leaders of the community like him consume their time trying to take the mickey out of people at the best of times, let alone when you’re in a situation when you’re in a global emergency.”

Cllr Ecclestone has since commented on the situation, telling the Advertiser: “I just wanted to highlight “the sheer weirdness of the Lib Dems supporting their once renegade member Cllr Rowles as their preferred mayor after it was the group he led that wiped them out at the elections last May.

Strange bedfellows indeed!”