Councillor suspended for saying cheaper homes will bring "feral youths"
- Credit: Submitted
A Conservative councillor has been suspended after claiming the “mad rush for affordable houses” could attract “feral youths causing mayhem” and “neighbours from hell."
In the private WhatsApp chat of the ruling Conservative group on South Norfolk council, councillor Nigel Legg said on October 22: “The residents of the affordable [housing] are putting a disproportionate strain on the NHS which the Humbleyard Doctors will attest to.”
The Humbleyard Practice is a group of GP surgeries with a branch in Mr Legg’s ward.
His comment attracted anger from members, with one replying: “Nigel comments like that DO NOT HELP ANYONE and are unnecessary. Please desist.”
Despite this, Mr Legg later messaged the group: “I have never understood the mad rush for affordable houses.
“The latest housing estate in Mulbarton had become a ghetto before it was finished with gangs of fetal [sic] youths causing mayhem.
“Who wants to buy a house next door to the neighbours from hell?
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“And where do all these people come from? They can't all be local. Council estates in Norwich? They are unlikely to vote for us."
In a report for his Conservative colleagues, leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), South Norfolk council leader John Fuller said Mr Legg had been suspended from the group for up to 21 days or until the next group meeting - to be held privately on Thursday November 11.
At that meeting, members will either allow the suspension to expire, or vote for further action.
Further action could entail re-admitting him but with a motion of censure passed against him, to prolong his suspension, or to permanently expel him from the group.
Mr Legg will be invited to make his case and he will have a vote in any motion that may follow.
Messaging Mr Legg on October 23, Mr Fuller said: “You’d better delete that message last night. If someone screenshots that, you will be personally ruined”.
In a follow-up letter to him on October 26, Mr Fuller similarly said: “Your personal reputation would be shredded in the community if someone screen-shotted and distributed your comments. And that would be a personal tragedy.”
He also said “the lessons from Right-to-Buy and the Red Wall show us that some of our Party’s greatest support comes from people who strive to improve their lives.
“The Conservative Party exists to provide equality of opportunity to everyone regardless of background.
“Your comments were wholly at odds with those values.”
Mr Legg sent an apology to Mr Fuller that day, in which he said: “I am sorry to have caused so much trouble” and “I am sorry, if any members have taken my comments a personal sleight because obviously none was intended.”
Approached for comment this week, Mr Fuller said: “In the interests of natural justice, and very precisely following the rules set down for us, it would be inappropriate to comment in detail at this time.”
Mr Legg told the LDRS he stood by his claim about the disproportionate strain affordable housing places on the NHS.
Asked whether he regretted his ‘feral youths’ comment, he said: “I think I could have put it in better terms, but we do have issues in places like Mulbarton.
“I have been concerned as a district councillor with neighbour issues - I mean obviously I can’t go into detail about that sort of thing - but it does exist.”
He said he hadn’t meant to refer generally to people in affordable homes.
Asked about the relevance of how those people vote, Mr Legg said he was concerned about apathy among the population at large towards local politics.
Pressed on the point that he specifically referred to people in Norwich council estates not voting Conservative, Mr Legg said he had given no permission for his comments to be published publicly.
He added it was difficult for him to comment on what happened in the chat because he no longer has access to it.
Asked what he would say to his constituents in affordable homes, he said: “I’m frankly fully supportive of all my constituents, who I generally work very closely with.
“I think the vast majority perhaps understand where I’m coming from.”
He added: “For the most part, they are good law-abiding citizens. There are a few pockets of problems and all my constituents know that perfectly well.”
Chris Brown, the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition leader said: “I am shocked that a local councillor, who should represent all their residents fairly and equitably, can hold such objectionable views, and even more surprised that they would express them to other councillors in this way.
“With a lack of affordable housing in much of Norfolk, supporting the delivery of more affordable homes for families and first-time homeowners is a vital part of South Norfolk Council’s work.
“Councillor Legg’s out of touch views must not be allowed to influence this and action must be taken to show this is not the view of other councillors.”