An investigation has found that Hertfordshire county councillor Morris Bright did not breach the council’s code of conduct when he used the phrase, "bent over and took it".

Cllr Bright – who is also leader of Hertsmere Borough Council – used the phrase during the county council’s budget debate on February 19, in reference to the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrat councillors formally complained the phrase was “sexually and homophobia offensive”.

The county council’s chief legal officer launched an investigation to determine whether its use breached the council’s code of conduct.

The investigation report – which has just been published – found the words were "ill-judged", due to their "ambiguous nature".

But it says there was insufficient evidence to conclude the subject matter breached the code.

On September 13, the findings will be presented to a meeting of the county council’s standards committee.

The investigation focussed on a contribution by Cllr Bright, which said: "…it was the Liberal Democrats who were on board; they were in bed; they were doing whatever they needed to do; they bent over and took it so that they could actually have control and power and they cut funding as well",

In the report to the committee, chief legal officer Quentin Baker said the investigator found the "intended meaning is supported by the interview and other evidence".

And he said: "I also note the context was that of the annual council debate on its budget which is commonly one of the most politically charged debates of the year."

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Barbara Gibson – who is also a member of European parliament – says she is "disappointed" with the decision – and maintains that Cllr Bright should apologise.

Cllr Gibson said: "I was disappointed with the report’s conclusions and still believe Cllr Bright should be required to apologise in the chamber, and on camera, for using language in the chamber that creates a hostile environment.

"His offence is not to me personally, but to the people of Hertfordshire."

Cllr Bright said: "I am pleased with the findings of the report and that the matter is over and I have been independently exonerated.

"I have been county councillor for ten years and this is the first complaint - which has proven to be erroneous.

"I understand at the time why Cllr Gibson was offended and I wrote to her within 24 hours and apologised. I'm sorry for any case of misinterpretation.

"I'm also sorry officer time and taxpayers money had to be spent on an erroneous complaint."