Maldon councillor unrepentant as town council apologises for his homophobic comments

Maldon Town Council has apologised for homophobic comments made by a councillor last week, which caused outrage among residents and local businesses.

The council has also said it will offer equality and diversity training to all town councillors in response to the incident.

An open letter signed by more than 25 Maldon businesses quoted a Maldon Nub News report of Cllr Revd Tony Shrimpton (Ind, North Ward) saying in the meeting: “I’m not very keen on calling same sex weddings weddings. When you’re talking about same sex weddings, you’re not talking about weddings.”

In a statement on the Maldon Town Council Facebook page, Mayor David Ogg said: “As Town Mayor, I offer my sincerest apologies to all local residents and business owners and especially to those who have taken the trouble to express their concerns openly via social media for the offence caused recently by comments made by one councillor at a recent meeting.

“As those who attended the Finance Committee Meeting, the comments made by Cllr Tony Shrimpton which have caused so much dismay, were his own personal views, and not the view of the Town Council, nor of the other members who were present.

“Simon Quelch, the Monitoring Officer at Maldon District Council, has investigated the matter and has concluded that it was inappropriate for Cllr Shrimpton to have made the comments he did in a public meeting and that he should acknowledge this publicly in a similar forum.

“In addition, all town councillors will be offered equality and diversity training.”

Others at the meeting reportedly said: “Flying a flag sets a precedent,” and “why aren’t we flying flags for other people.”

Speaking to the BBC, Cllr Shrimpton defended his comments at the meeting on purchasing a pride flag to fly outside Moot Hall.

He said: “I’m a believer in the traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

“There should be a word that replaces the meaning of same-sex marriage. It would be more comfortable with me if there was a word for it.

“I supported the Pride flag flying during Pride week, but I abide by the bible which clearly says marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Several Maldon businesses said in an open letter they were “completely and utterly dismayed and disappointed,” and said Cllr Shrimpton had gone against the code of conduct.

They said: “It’s 2021 and we were absolutely shocked to see the blatant homophobic and outdated comments made by Councillor Shrimpton and others in the 16th August council meeting about purchasing the LGBTQ+ pride flag.”

“As members of the town council you have a responsibility to represent Maldon as a community as a whole, and that includes LGBTQ+ members living and running businesses here.

“We are bitterly disappointed in this council for not holding Mr Shrimpton and others to account and rest assured we will be using our voices to do so and ensure comments like this do not happen again.”

According to the letter, Cllr Shrimpton said at the meeting: “I’m not very keen on calling same sex weddings weddings. When you’re talking about same sex weddings, you’re not talking about weddings.”

Others at the meeting reportedly said: “Flying a flag sets a precedent,” and “why aren’t we flying flags for other people.”

The open letter’s co-signatories include Mrs Salisbury’s, Anvil & Ivy, Silo Refillery, Heart of Craft, Clear Ear, Foot Freedom, Willow & Fox, Luna Blue Interiors, Dawn Interiors, The Gnome Cafe, Dante’s, Chic Petite, Maldon Books, Aesthetic Hair, Bridal Reloved Maldon, Just The Thing, Maldon Foot Clinic, Wenlocks, Ruby & Rose, Serendipity Gift and Tea Shop, Ansell and Sons, The Hair Room, Crystal Shack, Rubino Kitchen, Miss Rachel Holland, Luxury Home Fragrances and many other local businesses.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter