‘We weren’t to blame for library sex questions’

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councillors say they are not to blame for questions about people’s sexuality appearing in a Portsmouth library survey.

Lee Hunt, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said the survey had to comply with the Equality Act 2010.

That was brought in by local government minister Eric Pickles to prevent discrimination against minority groups.

But, as previously reported in The News, parents were outraged after their children answered questions about whether their sex has changed since birth and what their sexuality is in a questionnaire about the future of Cosham library.

Tory Cllr Steve Wemyss, in addressing Cllr Hunt at a full council meeting, said the survey he received didn’t contain the controversial questions.

‘I received a postal questionnaire which didn’t have sex questions like that, but the ones that were online did.

‘So why is the council sending out illegal documents? Which one is wrong?’

The council admitted that its community engagement team added the questions at the last minute to conform with legislation and hadn’t consulted with councillors about its decision.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has since contacted Mr Pickles to see if similar questions can be left out of future surveys which are unrelated.

Cllr Hunt said: ‘Nothing we have done is unlawful.

‘Everyone has acted with the best of intentions.

‘The amount of discrimination that was around when I was younger 30 years ago was terrible.

‘In this country we can ask these sort of questions and as a country we are now confident about talking about these sort of issues.’

Councillors asked if the consultation could be extended until after the end of the month in light of the recent problems.

But Cllr Hunt said there would be no need because the council has received responses from 350 people and the consultation has been widely publicised online and in drop-in centres.

Deputy Conservative group leader Donna Jones said: ‘This is the council completely shirking responsibility. It’s appalling. The council hasn’t come up with a clear resolution.’