County council chairman urged to resign over 'slip of the tongue' comment about gypsies

Cllr Nigel Taylor, Somerset County Council chairman.

Cllr Nigel Taylor, Somerset County Council chairman. - Credit: Archant

A councillor is being urged to resign after saying 'gypsies would fill their pockets with the copper wiring' in an online meeting.

Somerset County Council has launched an investigation into its chairman, Nigel Taylor’s ,'potentially inappropriate comments' at last week’s full council meeting.

He thanked two officers for setting up the technical equipment for the meeting before adding: “I think if any gypsies came back, they’d manage to fill their pockets with copper wiring."

Also a ward member for Cheddar, councillor Taylor said it was a 'slip of the tongue' that he sincerely regrets.

Cllr Taylor said: “I just regret the whole thing.

"I have apologised to everybody. I sincerely regret any embarrassment to anyone.

“It was a stupid off-the-cuff remark, a slip of the tongue after a long meeting.

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“I didn’t even realise what I’d said. I’ve referred myself and asked to be investigated.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Jane Lock said councillor Taylor’s Conservative colleagues were left with their heads in their hands after the remark.

Cllr Lock said: “For a brief second, I was stunned. I thought I didn’t hear it right.

“You can’t say that. You don’t even talk in those terms in private, let alone as a public figure.

“I’m absolutely livid. He should do the right thing and resign immediately as chairman.

“He doesn’t speak for me as the chair of Somerset County Council. Gypsies are a recognised minority ethnic group.

"If he was to talk like that about gay people or people from India it would be unacceptable. It’s not acceptable to speak like that about the traveller community.”

The council has removed the remark from the published audio recording of the meeting.

A county council spokesman said: “We can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation into potentially inappropriate comments made during last week’s full council meeting.

"We are unable to make any further comment while the matter is under investigation.”

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