Call for district councillor to resign after “great unwashed” comment

Liberal Democrat Councillor Melvin Caton.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Melvin Caton. - Credit: Archant

A Conservative councillor has called for his Liberal Democrat colleague to resign, after the latter referred to residents as “the great unwashed”.

Conservative councillor Christian Criscione. Photo: Supplied by Christian Criscione.

Conservative councillor Christian Criscione. Photo: Supplied by Christian Criscione. - Credit: Christian Criscione

Stansted South and Birchanger Cllr Melvin Caton made the comment during a Local Plan Leadership Group meeting held by Uttlesford District Council. Christian Criscione, Conservative Cllr for Flitch Green and Little Dunmow, said it showed “complete contempt” for residents.

Meanwhile, Cllr Caton said: “I apologise to anybody who took offence at my comment. I have apologised to fellow members of the LPLG. If this raises awareness of the approaching consultations on the LP, then I feel my comments will have had a positive, if unintended, impact.”

During the online meeting on July 29, councillors discussed how they will engage with residents on the new Local Plan. It comes after the Plan put forward by the previous Conservative administration was found “unsound” by independent inspectors and withdrawn earlier this year by Saffron Walden councillors and Dunmow councillors. Officer Stephen Miles said the success of the new local plan will depend on consultation and engagement with the community, and that a report has been written in this sense.

But Cllr Caton expressed his concern at the fact that the paper seemed to suggest all the consultation channels will be digital.

He said: “There will be a fair percentage of our population that are digitally excluded, and we need to be thinking about how we get to them.

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“It is a local plan which might affect their roads, their community. I am afraid the great unwashed out there are never very interested in local affairs until it hits them in the face.”

Cllr Criscione reacted to the comment: “Councillor Caton has displayed a complete contempt for the people of Uttlesford.

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“I’m sure the residents of Stansted South and Birchanger will take great offence to this. He should be ashamed and must resign at once.”

Cllr Caton explained after the meeting that, as the previous Local Plan “proved”, people are interested in firm proposals and how they are going to be affect their community.

He said that using the words “great unwashed” was “probably slightly colourful”, but that he meant to make a point.

Cllr Caton added: “This was an initial meeting, we were discussing concepts. I wasn’t making any comments to any particular people.

“I think that is a very silly comment on behalf of councillor Criscione. It seems to me that he is creating tensions where there weren’t any. He wasn’t even present at the meeting.”

A spokesperson for UDC said that as it is a political issue, they would not comment.

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