CALLS have been made for a member of Wrexham Council’s ruling executive board to be removed over comments he made during a debate on homelessness.

Cllr Terry Evans, the local authority’s lead member for economy, has come under fire after he appeared to criticise people in receipt of Housing Benefit.

During a meeting of the council’s homes and environment scrutiny committee on Wednesday, the independent councillor said: “Good people pay their rent, these sort of people have their rent paid for them.”

His remarks came after he raised objections to having homeless people with addiction issues housed within council properties in his community of Chirk.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has been made aware of at least two complaints lodged against Cllr Evans following the meeting, which was held to discuss how the authority intends to address the growing number of homeless people in the area.

It includes one from the vice-chair of the Wrexham Town Centre Forum Andy Gallanders, who runs the Bank Street Social coffee shop.

In an e-mail to the authority’s legal officer, he said: “I would like to make a complaint over the language used by a councillor during a meeting.

“Out of fairness, I do not have a good relationship with Terry Evans.

“His comments over housing the most vulnerable in our communities during Covid-19 are absolutely disgusting.

“I request he be removed from the executive board and a public apology be published for these remarks.”

Mr Gallanders and Cllr Evans have previously clashed heads over the executive board member’s track record in managing the economy portfolio.

A number of members of the public have also criticised his comments on social media, with at least one making their own complaint.

Meanwhile, the council’s Plaid Cymru group of councillors said: “Some councillors in Wrexham seem to think anyone on Housing Benefit is sub-human and not “good”.

“Given the thousands of people who are being made redundant and having to claim benefits, including Housing Benefit, perhaps Cllr Terry Evans might want to re-think.”

The amount of individuals presenting as homeless to the local authority has increased significantly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report presented to councillors.

A total of 505 people have sought assistance since national lockdown measures were first introduced in March, around a fifth of whom had recently been released from prison.

Cllr Evans made a number of remarks about homeless people who had been housed in his area during the meeting, including one man who was jailed after causing £15,000 worth of damage to Chirk’s Co-op store.

He said: “We’ve had these people off the streets of Wrexham that have major drug problems and plonked them in a flat in a good street of residents.

“We’re being told here today that they’re tenant ready before they receive a property.

“All day and all night they walk about the community looking for something to steal.

“One person did £20,000 worth of damage to the Co-op, where he had a prison sentence but was then released back into the community doing the same.

“We’ve had more than our fair share in our community.

“Local people on the list for years are being bypassed and this is causing great concern and they are losing faith in our system.”

In response, the head of the council’s housing service, Julie Francis, said it had a legal duty to house homeless people and was unable to remove those who pay rent and keep their properties clean.

She said other public bodies, including the police, needed to play their part in addressing criminal issues.

She said: “We have some difficult characters in society who commit crime and do things in their community they shouldn’t be doing.

“Without pointing criticism at any other agencies, that is the responsibility of everybody.

“It’s the responsibility of police, it’s the responsibility of social services, mental health services, probation services and drug and alcohol service.

“It’s not a housing issue and tenancy ready means they could be paying their rent and their house could be clean and I have no other redress to take the house from them.”

In reply, Cllr Evans said: “You say that they’re paying their rent – good people pay their rent; these sort of people have their rent paid for them.”

Cllr Evans said he did not wish to comment on the complaints about his remarks.

However, some of his views were backed by council leader Mark Pritchard during the debate.

He said: “We’re all compassionate people and we all want to help people, but it’s how we balance this up.

“We also have a moral duty to represent our constituents and to make sure that when we place someone in a community that they can behave themselves and become part of the community.

“I think Terry Evans is right. Our residents are losing faith because there’s no answers.

“I’ve got a case in my ward of an individual, and I won’t name him for obvious reasons, and everybody is aware of him.

“The ambulance has gone to that property 90 times in the last 18 months and that’s just an example of what I’m saying here.”

A spokesman for Wrexham Council said: "We can confirm that a complaint has been received and that it’s receiving attention."