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Camden's leader attacked for learning to communicate

PUBLISHED: 11:47 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

A SPAT has broken out at Camden Town Hall over language lessons for councillors. Council leader Keith Moffitt is currently learning Bengali so he can communicate with the Bangladeshi community here. However, opposition councillors have criticised the move

A SPAT has broken out at Camden Town Hall over language lessons for councillors.

Council leader Keith Moffitt is currently learning Bengali so he can communicate with the Bangladeshi community here.

However, opposition councillors have criticised the move, which is being paid for by the taxpayer to the tune of £250.

On his blog, Labour spokesman Theo Blackwell said he will now be asking for free lessons and suggested Cllr Moffitt would also need to learn Somali, Mandarin and Portuguese in the interests of fairness.

King's Cross councillor Jonathan Simpson suggested the leader should have made the lessons more widely known and paid for them himself.

"This wasn't publicly declared and some people feel this shouldn't be paid for with taxpayers' money," he said.

"I don't think it's a bad idea that councillors who represent a diverse community should be able to speak to residents in their mother tongue.

"However, given that they are paid for with council tax, it shouldn't have been done so slyly, where we only find out about it later."

Cllr Moffitt, who previously worked as a translator, has so far completed four lessons on a course of six. He suggested he would do further classes and dismissed the criticisms.

"This is good news for Camden and is something I have been very open about.

"I am very surprised this should be criticised as it's a good idea and means I am able to better communicate with our community.

"Since doing this, it has also made me realise how difficult it is to learn a completely different language and how hard it must be for some people to learn English for the first time.

"I have come in on Saturdays and taken these lessons in my spare time.


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