COUNCIL leaders have backed down in the face of a national outcry after banning a health watchdog group over an alleged racist remark.

The furore erupted after the chairman of Wiltshire Involvement Network (WIN), Anna Farquar, used the phrase “jungle drums” while talking about the way rumours spread among health service workers.

The remark prompted a complaint from a member of Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, Sonia Carr.

Mrs Farquar, 70, apologised for causing any offence but Wiltshire Council still banned all members of WIN from its premises and meetings and suspended the group’s funding while an investigation was launched.

WIN was warned that it could lose next year’s funding as well.

Since the incident was brought to public attention by last week’s Journal it has been followed up by the national press and has led to strong criticism of Wiltshire Council’s actions.

The Journal has been inundated with letters from readers, unanimous in condemning the council’s decision.

And the national press have also fiercely criticised the way “a blameless pillar of the community has had her reputation dragged through the mud”.

Wiltshire and WIN held talks on Monday which were described as “productive” and the council reinstated funding and withdrew the ban.

A joint statement issued afterwards said: “Both organisations agreed to continue to work together to support users and carers.

“WIN is aware that it needs to ensure that its work to monitor and improve the health and social care of Wiltshire citizens can be carried out effectively and with due regard to current legislation.

“At the next Core Group meeting of WIN, members will discuss those recommendations that require a new approach.”

A council spokesman denied reports that the investigation had cost tens of thousands of pounds. She said the council had a duty to investigate such complaints and followed a standard procedure, costing less than £200 in staff time.