London, Feb 7 (ANI): A health watchdog in Britain has had its funding withdrawn after its chairman was accused of racism for using the phrase "jungle drums" to describe gossip.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.
Chairman Anna Farquhar, 70, had noted that gossip about NHS changes had been spreading within the Health Service, saying: "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.
Farquhar immediately apologised for any offence but 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.
Fellow WIN members said they were "astounded" that Farquhar, a distinguished former chief executive of the Citizen's Advice Bureau and St John Ambulance in the Devizes area, had been accused of racism.
"Anna hasn't got a racist bone in her body. The whole thing is ridiculous. It's got to the point where you daren't ask for a black coffee in case somebody takes offence," the Daily Mail quoted one as saying.
Phil Matthews, WIN's vice-chairman and a member of the local Coalition Against Racism, said it's the worst kind of political correctness.
"Anna's remark was nothing to do with race. This ridiculous decision means that patients in this area do not have a voice and the council is not hearing their concerns about health and social care services," he stated.
The council is to meet WIN leaders to explain why it upheld Carr's complaint about the incident on August 10 last year. (ANI)