Call for Mayor to clarify ethnic wedding comment that could be interpreted as discriminatory

By Neil Speight

25th Aug 2023 | Local News

Cllr Sue Little
Cllr Sue Little

A WATCHDOG group that helps and supports ethnic communities in Thurrock has called on borough Mayor Cllr Sue Little to clarify a statement which could be interpreted as a racial slur.

Cllr Little, who lives in Orsett and also represents the village on the council, is campaigning against a marquee used for functions on the Orsett Showground.

The Woodlands Marquee is particularly popular for hosting Asian, particularly Indian, weddings which can be rather raucous affairs and which have adopted what has now become an established tradition of the groom arriving in fast, expensive sports or luxury cars. The bride and groom leave in similar fashion.

It is the vehicles which are predominantly the cause of Cllr Little's concern. And, signing herself as 'Madam Mayor' she has written to the council objecting to a retrospective planning application for the marquee and has included a remark that has shocked people copied in on her letter to Director of Place, Mark Bradbury.

The marquee at the centre of controversy on Orsett Showground.

Cllr Little says: "It is not just the noise they make in the showground but when they leave it. The reason they have them is to look flash and make huge amounts of noise and no availability of elephants."

The reference to elephants has been interpreted as a derogatory remark and is compounded by the fact that Cllr Little - who has admitted stopping cars trying to attend the wedding and engaging in exchanges with drivers – repeatedly being heard to describe the Indian participants and guests as 'you people'.

She is also reported to have been waving her council identity badge and telling people she 'can get this shut down'.

Cllr Little, who lives nearby on Herga Hyll, has confirmed to Nub News that she has been out and had direct contacts with people attending the events, to the extent of standing in the entrance, blocking cars attempting to get in and causing traffic backups on Rectory Road. Ironically, at one recent confrontation she also confronted passengers in cars trying to get to a wedding at nearby Orsett Hall Hotel.

She also defends her comments to Mr Bradbury, copied in among others to Clive Folkard secretary of Orsett Showground Ltd, telling Nub News: "It is not racist to say that, it is a tradition. They used to have white horses and elephants at weddings, now they can't have them because they are banned, it's fast cars!"

Fast cars, elephants and weddings have landed borough mayor Cllr Sue Little in the middle of controversy.

However, that is not a view shared by ThurrockBME (Black, Minority and Ethnic), an organisation set up to ensure that the minority ethnic groups of Thurrock are represented at a strategic level with key policy makers. 

One of its directors is former Conservative councillor Tunde Ojetola, himself a former borough mayor who knows first hand the responsibility for making appropriate statements when acting as the borough's first citizen.

Having seen Cllr Little's comments BME agrees it could be interpreted as offensive and issued the following statement: "Discrimination and racism are unjust and harmful practices that violate the dignity and rights of human beings.

"They are based on the false assumption that some groups of people are superior or inferior to others based on their skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. Discrimination and racism can lead to violence, oppression, exclusion, and suffering for millions of people around the world.

"ThurrockBME Group has been made aware of a statement attributed to the Mayor which could be perceived as discriminatory.

"ThurrockBME Group strongly oppose discrimination and racism in any form. We have therefore called on the Mayor to clarify the statement and ask her to reassure all residents that Thurrock continues to strive to treat all residents equally.

"We need to learn from different cultures and perspectives and to respect the choices and preferences of others. These include how we celebrate weddings, religious traditions and festivals, etc. Understanding and respect for all cultures is the key to living in harmony."

Thurrock Council issued the following statement: "Thurrock Council is committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct from our councillors and officers.

"The standards for councillors are set out in the members' code of conduct.

"Anyone who wishes to make a complaint about a councillor can do so via a form available on our website."

So the remarks by Cllr Little can be put in context, the full letter to Mt Bradbury is below.

Dear Mark

This comes with a heavy heart to say this but I think we must refuse to support planning permission for the marquees wherever they put them. This is a u turn on my behalf as I did try to compromise on them. The reasons are below.
Last Friday evening I went up there and they were preparing for a wedding. I spoke to Clive about the event etc. There is a wedding due at the weekend where they have got 25k of hired super cars for the groom which is traditional for these Indian weddings.
It is not just the noise they make in the show ground but when they leave it. The reason they have them is to look flash and make huge amounts of noise and no availability of elephants. 
This was a broken promise Clive gave to Mr Field last year that this would not happen again. 
In the planning application for the marquee, it states they use local staff to wait on tables and local produce this is totally untrue as the company bring in all their own staff and the food is mainly prepared off site and brought in.
Clive stated that the firm pays £5k to take down the marque and put them up but this is not correct as most of that amount is storage Also, that is the wedding company's problem not the villagers. 
Originally Clive said and now admits it was untrue about the marquees being in a different area because of no services this was a falsehood.
Secondly one may ask what does this Indian company and the marquees bring benefit the village 
None at all, only aggravation.
We are told they need to have them to pay for the Orsett Show. Sadly, I think this is untrue and the show has managed to run very well without Asian wedding events before. 
They are operating on the show ground without permission which they knew they did not have. They knew last year this should be stopped but, no they continued. 
There are so many reasons why we need to have them stopped immediately, the tents are not used for the show itself. 
To add insult to injury I have come home to be met by the noise of yet more cars revving up there.
They have also told me that some very expensive cars will be bring the groom in this weekend and the noise will be dreadful plus the smoke. 
I also 'what's app 'you some photos with the smoke and cars. 

Kind regards

Cllr Sue Little 

Madam Mayor 

     

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