COUNCIL leader Rod Bluh says he is still backing Coun Nick Martin to be Swindon’s next mayor – even though he has been penalised for behaving inappropriately towards a senior officer at the civic dinner.

Deputy mayor Coun Martin (Con, Shaw), 61, who is married with children, breached the council’s protocol of member/officer relations by touching the back of Helen Miah’s head and describing its style as a DA — “duck’s a**e” — during the annual social function at Steam in May 2011.

The former cabinet member was told to write a letter of apology and undertake training on the protocol after the council’s standards committee’s hearings panel found last Friday that he had used inappropriate language and had been too familiar.

Swindon’s deputy mayor is traditionally elected as full mayor in a unanimous vote at the council’s annual meeting the following May, with congratulatory speeches from all parties. But Friday’s findings threw into question whether Coun Martin would have enough support to become the first citizen of the borough – the key representative of the council and Swindon residents.

Coun Bluh did not publicly support Coun Martin at the hearings panel, but has since come out to say that its findings do not detract from his ability to fulfil his current role and he sees no reason why he should not go on to be mayor next May.

In a statement, he said: “The findings of the standards hearing do not detract from Coun Martin’s ability to discharge the office of deputy mayor. “Custom and practice is that the person who is deputy mayor is nominated to succeed to the position of mayor and there is no reason for this not to be the case again next year. Coun Martin can continue the traditional mayoral role of being an excellent supporter of charities and community groups in Swindon.”

However, opposition parties, whose support could be key in the vote, say they are reviewing their support.

Coun Jim Grant, the Labour group leader, said: “Firstly, I want to stress the importance of all of Swindon’s councillors behaving appropriately and respectfully to all residents and council officers.

“For the mayor and deputy mayor, with their higher public profiles, this is perhaps even more important.

“I think the allegations and the judgement made against Coun Martin does make it more difficult for the Labour group to support his nomination to be the mayor of Swindon next year.” However, the Labour group will not make a final decision until closer to the time of the annual council meeting, when Swindon’s councillors decide who will be mayor and deputy mayor.

Coun Stan Pajak, the Lib Dem group leader, said: “It’s so unbelievable anybody could be so silly and do that type of thing, and that may be reflected in our support. But it’s hard to know without knowing the full facts.”