Deputy Cornwall Council leader admits "inappropriate" comments about disabled children
A second Cornwall Councillor was forced to apologise for a gaffe about disabled children, it has emerged.
Neil Burden, deputy leader of Cornwall Council and portfolio holder for children's services said: "The problem is there are too many disabled children," during a meeting in April 2010.
The councillor, who represents Stoke Climsland, also referred to disabled children as "handicapped" during the meeting with members of the Parent Carer Council for Cornwall (PCC).
The revelation comes just days after Cornwall Councillor Collin Brewer resigned after saying "all disabled children should be put down" because they cost the council too much money.
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Following the remarks, Sandra Ward, the then chair of the PCC called for Mr Burden's immediate resignation.
In a letter to Alec Robertson, who was the leader of the council at the time, Ms Ward said: "In my volunteer role as chair of the Parent Carer Council for Cornwall and representing over 500 members I would request Neil Burden's immediate resignation or dismissal by you."
During the meeting Mr Burden told the group that he had not wanted to take on the role as portfolio holder for children's services and had been forced into it by Mr Robertson.
He caused further offence when talking about a family he knew who had lost a severely disabled child by referring to the youngster as "it."
In her letter to Mr Roberston Ms Ward said: "No child should ever be referred to as 'it' and as for there being too many of our disabled children I do not know how to respond to that, as a parent or as the chair of the PCC, as I have never heard such an awful statement in the 12 years of my daughter being born."
Following the incident Mr Robertson replied to Ms Ward saying Mr Burden's comments were "ill-judged and poorly expressed" but did not warrant his resignation.
"I really do not think that he meant to be offensive or malicious, or that his comments merit the ultimate sanction of resignation," Mr Robertson said.
Mr Burden wrote to the chair of the PCC with an unreserved apology.
"I apologise unreservedly for my comments, which I accept were inappropriate," he said
He added: "Although I have been a local politician for a long time, I confess that I am "reconstructed" and prone to speaking plainly."
This afternoon Mr Burden made a statement regarding his comments.
"The comments I made to Sandra concerned medical errors that are sometimes the cause of disability in children.
"There was no malice in the comments but they were clumsy and didn't make the point I intended. I wrote to her immediately after the incident to apologise unreservedly for my inappropriate words and I am very grateful that she recently acknowledged the work and support I have put in on behalf of disabled children in the last three years," Mr Burden said.
He added: "I recognise that I expressed the point I was trying to make very badly and caused offence. I learnt an important lesson on that day and hope that my record of support for services to children with disabilities has shown that."
The leader of the council Jim Currie has spoken out in support of Mr Burden.
Mr Currie said: "Neil is the most committed and hard-working member of the cabinet. He works tirelessly to improve the quality of the services we provide for children and families in Cornwall and to ensure that their needs are understood and taken into account in every decision we make."