Portsmouth Lib Dem councillor’s ‘loony bins’ comment sparks argument

CONTROVERSY The Patey Day Centre in Portsmouth
CONTROVERSY The Patey Day Centre in Portsmouth

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A LIB Dem councillor has hit back at critics blasting him for using the term ‘loony bins’ during a discussion about dementia day care in Portsmouth.

An audio recording has surfaced on the internet of Cllr Lee Hunt making the remark at the latest full city council meeting – and rival parties say it was insensitive and he should apologise.

Cllr Lee Hunt

Cllr Lee Hunt

But Cllr Hunt says he used it to highlight people’s past perceptions of where dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers go, and that times have now changed.

Cllr Hunt, who also criticised the way people were attempting to ‘smear’ him, said: ‘My comments were a condemnation of the way people have been treated in the relatively recent past and that now things are very different.

‘For someone to attempt to twist that to try to win a political advantage says so much more about them.

‘Had I said anything that even approached the kind of smear that is attempted to be alleged, then the councillors, Lord Mayor and officers would have all jumped on it rightly there and then.

‘This kind of desperado politics is a travesty of local democracy.’

Cllr Hunt also praised the work being done by Portsmouth City Museum to create ‘memory cafes’, which would involve using archive material to help patients remember things in their life.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the city council, said Cllr Hunt was right and anyone who knew him would realise the situation had been taken out of context.

But Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said that while he may have said ‘loony bins’ to illustrate a change in attitudes, it was ‘grossly insensitive’ to mention it at a meeting where dementia sufferers and carers were present.

They were there to put forward their case that The Patey Day Centre in Cosham should be saved.

As reported, it will close this summer if another site for it can’t be found.