A Tory councillor has been summonsed to appear before magistrates for allegedly making homophobic remarks.

Peter Willows, 75, of Brighton and Hove City Council allegedly said to guests that he believed homosexuals were paedophiles at a reception hosted by the mayor of Brighton and Hove.

Many prominent members of the gay community and gay media were within earshot of him at the time.

A court date has been set for Friday 11 August where Willows will answer a public order offence. He is being charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which outlaws language causing alarm, distress or harassment. If found guilty he could face a maximum jail term of up to six months or a £2,000 fine.

Willows had previously contacted the media regarding the council’s decision to fly the rainbow flag from its buildings to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

“Why should any country have to fly a flag because of men sleeping together to have sex?” Mr Willows said. “In my world that does not justify flying any flag. It’s an unnatural act”.

He later apologised for the letter, stating: “I believe LGBT people contribute positively to our society in Brighton and Hove and in the wider world.”

The Conservative group on the city council has suspended Councillor Willows from committees pending the outcome of the case.