Row in Canterbury as gay group accuses council of ‘ignoring’ gay issues

Jessica Geen May 13, 2009
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A gay group called Pride in Canterbury has accused the city council of ignoring gay issues and failing to respond to their complaints.

The group has complained that the council has ignored their concerns, specifically the need for a gay bar, an LGBT community drop-in centre and regular celebration of LGBT culture in the city.

They have also said the council failed to respond to a complaint made by them in November last year.

The council has refuted the group’s claims, saying it has funded various gay events and is not responsible for setting up a gay bar in the city.

Andrew Brettell, chairman of Pride in Canterbury, said: “Canterbury council see us as a problem, not as an opportunity.

“We’re someone to be dealt with, not a group to work with. They’re more interested in ticking their equality boxes and engaging in back-and-forth ‘who-said-what’ games than they are in dealing with the real issues.

“They’ll respond to our letters, so that they can say they’ve replied to us. But they never respond to our concerns. We do not believe the council want a thriving LGBT community in their city.”

Pride in Canterbury has complained to the Local Government Omburdsman, which has not yet made a decision on the case.

Currently, there is no statutory requirement for councils to promote LGBT culture, although this will change if the Equality Bill is passed.

The Bill, which passed its second reading in the House of Commons this week, will place a duty on all public bodies to promote equality and diversity, which will include LGBT issues.

Theo Grzegorczyk, political advisor to openly gay Lord Waheed Alli, who is pushing the Bill through parliament, said: “For all those who have questioned whether or not the Equality Duty is practical or necessary: here is your answer. This is a council who have been able to wiggle their way out of engaging with members of their own community, simply because the law doesn’t require it.”

“Fortunately, Canterbury City Council won’t be able to use that defence much longer.”

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