Leader of Liberal Democrats on Lewes District Council attacks remarks

The row over controversial comments made by a Lewes District Councillor about women and gay people has rumbled on.

The remarks made by UKIP’s Cllr Donna Edmunds, who is also an MEP candidate, were condemned by Cllr Sarah Osborne, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the district council.

Cllr Osborne said, “I am appalled that Donna Edmunds has publicly said she thinks it would be acceptable for businesses to refuse to serve people just because they are female or gay.

“For someone in public office to promote such views is very worrying. Cllr Edmunds may think that legislation isn’t necessary here, but does she really think that it would be OK, for example, for a public transport provider to turn people away for the colour of their skin?”

Cllr Osborne has reported Cllr Edmunds to the council’s Standards Board for bringing her office and the council into disrepute. The Liberal Democrat said: “As councillors we have a duty to promote equality and challenge unfair discrimination in all forms.

“Cllr Edmunds has failed to abide by the equality policy she signed up to when she became a councillor by actively promoting discriminatory behaviour and I have written to the council making a formal complaint about her conduct.”

She added: “I also find it very disappointing that whilst I condemn Donna for her words, the new Leader of the district council, Conservative Cllr Rob Blackman has yet to speak out on this issue, even though his party’s national press office have tweeted about the comments.”

Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat councillors made major changes to the Lewes District Council budget despite being the minority group

As a result, more affordable housing could be built, and flood and coastal protection improved over the next few years. But they were unable to persuade the Conservatives to introduce a Business Rate Discount Scheme which the party claimed would have helped businesses in the District.

Cllr Osborne said: “Several vital factors were missing from the Conservatives’ budget plans, so we had our proposals fully assessed and costed. With more than 2,000 people stuck on our housing waiting lists, I believe we have to move further and faster to provide homes.

“The housing amendment ensured that money will be available for the creation of more affordable housing in the District. We anticipate some of the monies will unlock existing but stalled new build plans. This will have the added benefit of being a catalyst for regeneration.”

Cllr Donna Edmunds, who represents Barcombe and Hamsey, sparked the rumpus earlier this month when she claimed businesses should be allowed to turn away women and gay people.

She later said she regretted posting the comments on an internet forum.

She said: “I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever they choose whenever they choose. It’s their business. Why should they be forced to serve or sell to anyone?”

Cllr Edmunds later defended her comments as “an essentially libertarian stance”.