A Ukip councillor was accused of racism as he claimed a Chinese construction firm may want to turn Sheffield Library into ‘the biggest takeaway this city has ever seen’.
Jack Clarkson, leader of the Ukip group on Sheffield Council, made the comments during a debate about new proposals for the Sichuan Guodong Construction company to turn the central library into a five-star hotel.
He said he believed a council consultation on the proposal was a ‘sham’ and a decision had already been made to allow it to go ahead already.
Coun Clarkson said he was unsure what the building would actually end up being used as.
“It could be the biggest Chinese takeaway this city has ever seen or it could be a five-star hotel, who knows?”
Labour councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for libraries, said the comment was ‘unbelievably offensive’ and ‘outrageous’ and asked Coun Clarkson to withdraw it.
Coun Clarkson said: “No, I won’t. It could be the biggest Chinese takeaway the city has ever seen.”
Lord Mayor Denise Fox, chairing the council meeting, asked if Coun Clarkson would withdraw ‘the racist remark’.
He said: “I didn’t intend it to be a racist remark. I don’t feel it is a racist remark. There was no offence intended to the Chinese community or anybody.
“It is what the majority of Sheffield people talk like. If that is offensive, then I’m sorry. I think because I’m a Ukip councillor, you are making a meal of this.”
Coun Clarkson’s remarks were also criticised by Rebecca Gransbury, whose petition to save Sheffield library has attracted over 10,000 signatures. She said her petition and own comments to the meeting had been carefully worded ‘to avoid the kind of horrible comments from this gentleman’.
If the hotel plan goes ahead, a new city centre home for the library would be found.