Long-serving Barnstaple county councillor Brian Greenslade has been publicly reprimanded following allegations of sexual harassment against female council staff over several years.

Devon County Council announced today (Thursday) the 69-year-old Liberal Democrat Mr Greenslade had been formally censured for 'alleged sexual harassment and abuse carried out by the subject member against a number of female employees over a sustained period of time'.

The full details of the allegations have not been released, but follow a standards committee investigation that culminated in a hearing on Monday.

Barnstaple North councillor Mr Greenslade was on holiday and had asked for an adjournment so he could attend, but this was refused.

As well as its 'notice of censure', the committee called on the Liberal Democrat group leader to remove Mr Greenslade from all committees and outside bodies.

His access to council buildings will also be restricted.

Lib Dem leader Alan Connett said the group would meet later this month to consider the standards committee recommendations, as well as give Mr Greenslade full opportunity to respond.

Announcing the decision, standards committee chairman, Councillor Caroline Chugg said: "This is not a decision that we came to lightly, but the weight of evidence was such that we could reach no other conclusion than to find Councillor Greenslade in clear breach of our code of conduct.

"On receiving a serious complaint of sexual harassment and abuse involving a number of female employees over several years, we ordered an independent investigation.

"I am sad to say that this investigation revealed a clear pattern of behaviour by Councillor Greenslade that can only be described as highly inappropriate and likely to cause offence and distress.

"As a senior politician this was a clear abuse of his position with conduct that falls far short of that expected of those in public office.

"All of us in public life have an absolute and unshakeable duty to ensure our staff can go about their important work for the people of Devon free from harassment and abuse."

Mr Greenslade lives in Marwood and has been a county councillor for Barnstaple since 1985, a run of 33 years.

He has also been a district councillor on North Devon Council since 1998.

North Devon Council's chief executive Mike Mansell said the council was 'appalled' by the investigation's findings, adding it would look at the full report before deciding on any implications.

He said: "First and foremost our thoughts go out to the women affected by Cllr Greenslade's behaviour and hope this has brought some closure for them.

"We are obviously appalled by the findings of this investigation and will be looking at the full report before deciding what the implications are for this authority but rest assured we will be putting our staff's safety at the forefront of whatever we do."

Commenting on the findings of the standards committee against Cllr Brian Greenslade, Alan Rennles chairman of North Devon Liberal Democrats said: "We are deeply concerned at the findings of the investigation into Cllr Brian Greenslade.

"Sexual harassment and bullying has no place in any aspect of public life and the Liberal Democrats take a zero tolerance approach to this within the party.

"Cllr Greenslade is currently overseas and so he is not in a position to defend himself at present in person. However given the serious nature of the allegations, we will be seeking to suspend his party membership forthwith, pending an internal party investigation."

The Gazette has approached Cllr Greenslade to ask if he wishes to respond.