A DEBATE about equality and inclusion caused a clash between councillors yesterday afternoon as questions were raised over Wiltshire Council’s equality statement.

Within a set of new draft inclusion objectives, the council has committed to: “Build a resilient community that represents the voices and diversity of Wiltshire, specifically in respect of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, BME and Trans communities.”

However some councillors objected to singling out LGBT and BME communities in Wiltshire over other groups who experience inequality.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Hubbard was ‘horrified’ at the demand for evidence to prove that LGBT and BME people are discriminated against more than others. Cllr Hubbard continued: “By asking that question we are inferring we don’t think there is discrimination but the evidence out there is overwhelming. I feel slightly horrified we are even having this debate.”

Conservative Cllr Pip Ridout said: “I wasn’t suggesting they weren’t discriminated against, I’m just saying there are other groups as well, gypsies and travellers for example. My son has mental health problems and he is discriminated against for example." and there are a lot of people with mental health problems in Wiltshire.

"Unless we have some evidence that LGBT and BME people are particularly discriminated against I think it is very dangerous to highlight a few groups. It looks as if we are trying to be positive for those groups only and not everybody overall.”

Corporate director Carlton Brand said: “The data says they are the groups most discriminated against.”

Conservative Cllr Stewart Dobson: “I would agree with Carlton for transgender people but I honestly believe what he said for lesbian, gay and BME people would be correct – ten years ago.”

Councillors asked for evidence proving LGBT and BME communities suffer higher levels of discrimination.

The Overview and Scrutiny committee called on officers and cabinet to ‘consider whether there is evidence to support the document specifically emphasising the importance of representing the voices and diversity of LGBT, BME and transgender communities in Wiltshire.’

Council leader Philip Whitehead: “We are definitely not saying we are not doing enough in these areas. We are saying they need attention because our evidence is they do need specific attention.”