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Deputy Cornwall Council leader admits "inappropriate" comments about disabled children

By CGGayle  |  Posted: March 01, 2013

Neil Burden

Comments (15)

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.

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."

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  • Angarrack1  |  March 03 2013, 9:32PM

    Disabled people and their families are being unfairly targeted with the welfare cuts and many will kick in this year. Cornwall Council have passed the full impact of the council tax cuts to those already living on he margins of poverty, who will be forced to pay 25% of their council tax from April. Many councils have found the savings elsewhere but Cornwall has passed it direct to th most vulnerable in our society. Add to that the 'bedroom tax' on a spare room and again, disabled people, who need it for wheelchairs, equipment, Carers to sleepover etc will be further penalised again. And the housing officers are telling them they can't downsize if they want to as there are no 1 bedroom accessible properties available. DLA is being hit too, Independent living fund is finishing and there are others. The government need to carry out an equality impact assessment on the 'cumulative effect' of the cuts!!! Cornwall now has 14 foodbanks and the Camborne one alone handed out 8000 meals in December. This unfair targeting of disabled people is not suprising given the attitudes of those in power.

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  • Green Ginger Studios  |  March 03 2013, 6:32PM

    Governed by sociopaths at every level.

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  • antlea  |  March 02 2013, 9:59PM

    Be even more plainer, being governed by rich ******* old barstewards,already on 30k pensions and not happy with enjoying it want rip next generation off by stealing our money behind facade of democracy. It is a ******* privilege and all you old ******* want to govern do it for the ******* privilege evil old hunts

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  • antlea  |  March 02 2013, 9:56PM

    Witch hunt my bottom, your probably someone with something to lose,JESUS WEPT, witch hunt. Just don't ******* get it do they. This shows, what the families of disabled children and the disabled have to put up with every week, from those responsible for decisions on the vulnerable s care. ONLY IN CORNWALL, IF YOUR ILL PLEASE DON'T MOVE HERE. Deputy Cornwall Council leader admits "inappropriate" comments about disabled children. Cornwall is only open to the elderly at pension age and will not allow youngsters or anyone in or allowed a say as democracy dictates as it's a closed shop in this Council.

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  • Phil_lip  |  March 02 2013, 9:52PM

    Antlea, the only way legally and without taking any illegal action to remove the current form of government is to get the apathetic 60ish% of voting age to spoil their papers, they do it 3 times and the prime minister has to go before the ruling monarch and hand back government so she can decide a better way to run the country of which she has to hold what could be classed as a referendum to ask the people, he, the cabinet and all members of parliament and councils have then got to resign and are not allowed to re-run for office. It is one of those funny laws hidden away amongst the faff that has been added since about 1700ish

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  • eu_blues  |  March 02 2013, 7:34PM

    A second Cornwall Councillor was forced to apologise for a gaffe about disabled children, it has emerged. This is Cornwall These people, should I call them people, that make these remarks are probably low empathy towards other human beings. This is psychopathic behaviour. Behaviour that seems to be showing itself in individuals that feel they are untouchable in the comments that they produce. Whether this is being done to show what reaction such comments will have in the broader context I don't know, but it's clear that this isn't just a "gaffe" as stated. I suspect others share the view that dsabled children should be put down. The eugenists have landed in Cornwall.

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  • antlea  |  March 02 2013, 12:52PM

    Are there any ways that a member and members of public can demand fresh elections due to no confidence in those "GOVERNING US" OR IS RIOTING/CIVIL UNREST THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE,SERIOUS QUESTION AS WHEN IS ENUFF ENUFF.

  • Doitdreckley  |  March 02 2013, 11:45AM

    If you take Mr Burden literally (as I believe were the sentiments of Mr Brewer) then it was a disgusting remark. But, how many people who are elderly, sick or disabled come to Cornwall for what they think is a better life only to find that the Council and the NHS locally does not have the money to support them. Cornwall is not fairly funded and this will not be helped with Liberal Democrat/Tory stunts over 'freezing' Council Tax.

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  • FancyPants  |  March 02 2013, 11:10AM

    "Prone to speaking plainly" eh? So am I. I have three things to say to this apology for a man: Councillor, your remarks were disgraceful. You are not fit to hold any office. Resign.

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  • Sellasia  |  March 02 2013, 9:58AM

    Anyone who speaks in public can make mistakes unless they practice to be word perfect. However councillors have so many other things to do they cannot practice and they don't have someone else to write their speaches so therefore every councillor will make a mistake from time to time that does not mean that they have to resign. I think that councillor Burden did not think his speac out very well befoe he delivered it so give the man a second chance.

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