A LEADING councillor has been accused of sexism after saying boys can train to be carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers at a college... while girls can learn to be beauticians and hairdressers.

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, made the comments at a meeting of Castle Point Council’s cabinet.

But Mr Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, insisted he was not sexist and only wants young people to have a chance in education.

During a discussion about the future of Xtend Digital Campus, run by USP college, he said: “If anybody actually went to that college they could have seen what a wonderful place it was.

“They could learn all sorts of skills from carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing. Ford supplied all the mechanical tools and then even supplied an engine.

“Upstairs the girls could learn to be beauticians, and hairdressing.”

Owen Cartey, chairman of the Canvey Conservatives, said: “Honestly I was sitting in the public gallery with complete disbelief.

“The reason our island is at the back of the queue so often is because our representatives don’t push us enough.

“My sister is a Year 11 student at Castle View School and we have visited all the local colleges to make sure she finds the right course for her.

“This just goes to show why we need more working age, local people pushing opportunities the way of Canvey kids on the council.”

Mr Blackwell defended the comments, saying he was a firm believer in equality and that the comments should be seen in the context of the Meppel Avenue campus having closed and re-opened several times.

He said: “I think people will laugh at this as everyone knows I am not sexist at all.

“I was asking about how many of our youngsters are using the college and the courses as it’s only for Canvey young people.

“I was just trying to make sure our young people get the chances they deserve to.”

He claims the Conservatives are worried about the February 24 by-election in St Peter’s ward, following the death of long-standing councillor Bill Dick.

Nominees are Conservative Michael Dixon, Labour’s Bill Emberson, and independent John Charles Woodley