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‘Racist’ comment from Withersfield councillor sparks outrage

By Sammi Nice

Robert Clifton-Brown ANL-151102-132247001
Robert Clifton-Brown ANL-151102-132247001

Calls have been made for the resignation of a Withersfield councillor following ‘racist’ remarks made at a council planning meeting.

Robert Clifton-Brown, who represents Withersfield at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, made the remarks at a planning committee meeting on an application for a travellers’ site in Rougham Hill in Bury St Edmunds.

Cllr Clifton-Brown said: “One last point, I think I will request the officers to look for another site, preferably bang next door to a police station.

“It’s easy enough to get them in, it’s very much more difficult to get them out.”

The remarks have prompted strong criticism of Cllr Clifton-Brown, who has since apologised and stepped down from the planning committee, amid calls for his resignation as a councillor. Cllr Clifton-Brown has stated that he intends to continue as a councillor and will be standing for re-election in May.

The sentiments expressed at the meeting on Thursday, February 5, were enough for Cllr Clifton-Brown’s Conservative colleague, Cllr Alaric Pugh, to publicly distance himself from the remarks.

Joseph G Jones is the secretariat for the Gypsy Council.

“It’s a racist comment,” he said. “It may even be incitement to racial hatred.

“Obviously, he needs to explain himself. If he thinks gypsies and crime go hand in hand and is implying that gypsies are criminals, he should explain why he thinks that.

“If he can’t explain himself, he should resign. People look to councillors for guidance and they should be beyond reproach.

“This is a very inappropriate comment to have made. When councillors make comments like this, pressure is usually put on them to leave so someone more sensible and less racist can take over.

“He obviously has views that are biased against gypsies and travellers.”

Sara Mildmay-White, chairman of the Conservative group on the borough council, said: “We do not in any way support the views expressed by him at that meeting. We have spoken to Mr Clifton-Brown and he has made it clear that he regrets his outburst.

“Nonetheless we have very clear disciplinary procedures and will be following these on this matter.”

Cllr Clifton-Brown was unavailable for comment.

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