John Rankin, who is also a Conservative borough councillor for Hastings’ Conquest Ward, was accused of showing “contempt” for people struggling with rising living costs after he sent a letter to Hastings and Rye Conservative Association members, saying: “We have local elections coming up in May for Hastings Borough Council and I would like you to be involved in my plans to remove the present Labour controlled council and replace it with an administration that looks after everyone in our town, not just people who unfortunately have to rely on benefits.”
A Hastings resident who received the letter took umbrage at his remark. They told the Hastings Observer: “Hastings has a lot of people on benefits especially those with disabilities and workers who don’t earn a lot. I feel that this is a bit of an insult to members, especially those that are disabled and workers who are low paid.”
Cllr Andy Batsford (Labour - St Helens) said Cllr Rankin’s letter was “a disgrace”. He added: “This letter to the Conservative membership from John Rankin tells the Hastings residents sadly what we all have suspected all along, that the ‘Nasty Party’ are alive and well under the leadership of Cllr Andy Patmore and MP Sally-Ann Hart. The contempt Cllr Rankin and his fellow Tory councillors show for those struggling with living costs spiralling out of control, food prices rising, as rents soar out of reach of the average family and energy prices cripple household budgets across our town, is a disgrace but sadly not surprising.
“In fact, if you acknowledge the state pension as a benefit, Cllr Rankin seems to be labelling our hard-working low wage families, the disabled and our dignified retired residents as scroungers that are to be dismissed. I don’t think the residents of our town will forgive or forget such comments for a long time, the mask has well and truly slipped.”
Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart declined to comment on Cllr Rankin’s letter.
When approached about the letter, Cllr Rankin issued a statement saying: “Whilst it is to be commended that the controlling Labour group at Hastings Borough Council give priority to people who are in receipt of state benefits, they must, at the same time, provide better basic statutory services, so that everyone in Hastings can enjoy a cleaner, safer, greener and more prosperous town.”