"A health watchdog has had its funding withdrawn after its chairman was bizarrely accused of racism for using the phrase ‘jungle drums’ to describe gossip.
The innocuous remark at a public meeting was seized upon by an equality campaigner – and the ensuing race row has lasted six months at a cost to the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds.
The trouble began at a gathering of the Wiltshire Involvement Network (WIN), an independent health watchdog, in Potterne Wick, Devizes, when chairman Anna Farquhar, 70, noted that gossip about NHS changes had been spreading within the Health Service, remarking: ‘You cannot help the jungle drums.’
The term comes from the use of wooden drums which were traditionally used in parts of Africa to communicate messages over long distances.
But a member of the public in attendance at the meeting in the local Scout headquarters, Sonia Carr, declared the phrase to be racist.
Mrs Farquhar immediately apologised for any offence but Mrs Carr, a member of the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, was unsatisfied and submitted an official complaint to Wiltshire Council, which launched a costly investigation.
After producing a ten-page report, the council barred all members of WIN from council premises and meetings. It also withdrew funding to cover the group’s administration costs.