A FORMER parliamentary candidate for South Swindon has been accused of sowing seeds of division after he labelled the town “a Third-World slum”.

Eldene resident Martin Costello, who contested the South Swindon seat for UKIP at last year’s general election, has been slammed by community leaders who have called his comments “misguided”, “offensive”, and “just plain wrong”.

In a video uploaded to social media at the weekend, Mr Costello, who was born and raised in Swindon and has previously claimed to be a “proud Swindonian,” can be seen taking a fierce swipe at his hometown while addressing a crowd in Westminster.

He said: “My town has been destroyed by mass immigration. It has overwhelmed the NHS, the schools and our young can’t afford to move out anymore. It has turned it into a Third-World slum.”

But politicians and community leaders in Swindon have hit back, accusing Mr Costello of being both divisive and wrong.

Swapan Roy, a popular member of the town’s Hindu community, who is this weekend helping to organise a multi-cultural celebration at Swindon’s Punjabi Community Centre, said: “This is absolutely wrong. There is no way Swindon has been destroyed by mass immigration. It’s very offensive. Most people are law-abiding and contribute a lot to the community.”

Jim Grant, the leader of the Swindon Labour Group, was also quick to defended the town.

He said: “I really don’t know what town Mr Costello is referring to. It’s certainly not the Swindon I recognise. In the last census only 15 per cent of Swindon’s population were not White British, so how on earth is Swindon so affected by mass immigration?

“Needless to say Swindon is not a Third-World slum, so it’s really disappointing that Mr Costello seeks to describe our town and his neighbours in such a way. It’s divisive, it seeks to demonise a group of people seeking to work and be valued members of our community and it’s just plain wrong.”

The video, filmed in Westminster at the weekend, was billed as a ‘non-partisan pro-Brexit rally’ led by The People’s Charter, a right-wing group who consider themselves the British version of the American Tea Party.

In what became a cross-party condemnation of Mr Costello’s comments, Coun David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said he “deeply deplored” any remarks that denigrate the town.

He said: “There is an important debate to be had about how a British government will regulate immigration so that our economy and society continue to benefit. These kinds of remarks are alien to centuries of British and English values and deserve pity, not comment.“

But Mr Costello, who describes himself on Twitter as a ‘Defender of the Realm’, insisted that his comments related to problems with the town’s infrastructure, rather than immigration itself.

Speaking to the Adver yesterday, he said: “It’s not just Swindon, other towns have similar problems. There is nothing wrong with immigration if it can be supported with the correct infrastructure, but we don’t have that in place.

“Until we get a grip on that, we can’t continue to let people come to this country.”

He said there was a massive strain on NHS services, the local housing supply and complained of a lack of cleanliness in the streets.

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, who finished more than 23,000 votes ahead of Mr Costello in the election last June, said he was “deeply concerned” to hear Swindon described as a “third world slum”.

“It is disrespectful to local residents and only serves to increase division. I firmly believe that rather than sowing the seeds of discord, it is far better to work in a positive way to achieve solutions,” he said.

Mr Costello, a committed Eurosceptic, has helped orchestrate a number of pro-Brexit marches and demonstrations since the referendum was held in June 2016.

In September, he organised a march through Swindon town centre to “send a clear message to Number 10 that we are not going to stand for any backsliding on Brexit”.

He has also been involved in demonstrations against perceived BBC bias and has called for the abolition of the licence fee.

In response to his blistering attack on Swindon, North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: “His comments are naïve, misguided and offensive.”