A CONSERVATIVE councillor has been criticised for dismissing gypsies and travellers as nothing more than a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Both groups are designated ethnic minorities by law but Sovereign councillor Patrick Warner caused a stir at a council meeting on Wednesday when he attacked the validity of those claims.
During a discussion on how to deter future groups from setting up site in Eastbourne, he told colleagues, “We all know that the previous Government classified the gypsy and traveller community as an ethnic minority in their own right. I don’t agree with this point at all and am firmly of the opinion that this community are simply making a lifestyle choice.
“The tiniest morsel of liberalism that seems to manage to survive in my thoroughly blue-blooded veins says that regardless of your view on this, provided that we all respect each other and go about our business as law abiding citizens, we should be able to make our own lifestyle choices – whatever they may be.
“But then in my experience, the kind of travellers that have caused criminal damage like that we have experienced on Five Acre Field are not even genuine gypsies, they tend do be little more than travelling labourers who treat our public spaces with contempt, terrorise our elderly residents into having work carried out on their homes which often does not need doing and leave a mess behind themselves once they eventually move on.These disgraceful individuals require a strong message to be given to them on arrival in Eastbourne – get off our land.”
His comments went unchallenged in the chamber, but the following morning, Chris Whiteell, director of Brighton-based charity Friends, Families and Travellers, said they showed “appalling ignorance”.
Speaking to the Herald, Mr Whiteell said, “This is not something we would expect from someone in such a public office. We would be very happy to give him some training on the subject.”