An apology was demanded from a top councillor from a neighbouring authority this week after he branded Bognor Regis ‘a dump’.
The offensive remarks were made by Andrew Baldwin, a Horsham district councillor, during a debate about plans to hike parking fees in Horsham.
Cllr Frances Haigh highlighted Arun District Council’s policy to offer two hours’ free parking in Bognor from December. She asked why the same could not be done in Horsham.
Cllr Baldwin had an answer for her. He said: “You can’t compare Bognor Regis to Horsham.
“It’s like comparing a clapped-out old banger to a Rolls Royce.”
When hearing about the derogatory remarks, Bognor Regis town mayor and Arun district councillor Jim Brooks blasted the cabinet member for the environment’s assertion that ‘Bognor Regis is a dump’, labelling his words as ‘completely disrespectful and unprofessional’.
Speaking on Tuesday Cllr Brooks said: “The comments were outrageous. For the town of Bognor Regis I want and demand an apology.
“Councillors of neighbouring authorities should not be saying negative things about other towns. Not a single Bognor Regis town councillor, and I am sure not a single Arun councillor, would ever dream of saying anything like that.
“It is completely disrespectful and unprofessional.”
Cllr Brooks received a formal apology from Cllr Baldwin yesterday which he accepted on behalf of the town.
He said: “I am still disappointed he maintained the comments were his personal feelings. I was surprised he should say such things and that a senior member of a neighbouring district council should make such a remark.”
Cllr Brooks was joined by Arun’s leader Gillian Brown in inviting Cllr Baldwin to visit the sunshine capital which boasts a £40m school and ever-expanding Butlin’s resort.
Cllr Mrs Brown said: “We live in a society where freedom of speech is paramount, but I do think Cllr Baldwin’s language was a bit over the top and certainly not fair to the people of Bognor Regis.
“We have a lot to be proud of and I will always champion the town’s virtues.
“I extend a personal invitation to Cllr Baldwin and Horsham residents to visit for themselves.”
Cllr Baldwin’s apology:
“The quotes attributed to me were said in the heat of the moment and I sincerely apologise for the offence they have caused to the people of Bognor Regis and Arun District Council.
“I was expressing my own personal views. They were certainly not the views of Horsham District Council.
“Many residents of Horsham town who go out of Horsham to shop tend to go to Crawley or Guildford rather than down to the coast.
“It therefore did not seem appropriate to be comparing car parking charges in Bognor Regis with those in Horsham.
“I will accept the offer of visiting Bognor to take advantage of the two hours’ free parking.”