A LEADING Tory’s claims that single mothers, alcoholics and drug addicts are damaging Southend High Street have been branded “unacceptable” by fellow Conservatives.

Anna Waite said big chain shops were shunning the High Street because nearby residents did not have enough money to spend.

Nancy Howard, chairman of the party association in Southend West, said: “While wanting to respect all individuals’ views, I and so many of my colleagues find it unacceptable to associate poor High Street presentation and performance with single mothers. We do not wish to be associated with such comments.”

She added: “The economic downturn is serious and Southend traders are doing a brilliant job coping with it.”

Mark Flewitt, a member of the Tory leadership at Southend Council, said: “What one person says is certainly not representative of many of my colleagues’ views.

“Anna is entitled to her view but this was deeply offensive to some and certainly against my political sensitivities.”

Mrs Waite, who made her comments in the context of a blog post about the future of the High Street, argued big brand shops would be deterred from Southend because of its social make-up.

She said: “ Single mums on bedsits, drug and alcohol addicts, the homesless and those on multiple benefits do not have the cash to spend in shops.”

To “redress the balance”, Mrs Waite advocated new housebuilding in the central area. She also called for a spruce-up of the High Street. She suggested a £6million sweetener, due to be paid to the council by Southend United in exchange for permission to build its new stadium at Fossetts Farm, could be spent on overhauling small streets off the main shopping thoroughfare.

Mrs Waite said those changes could trigger the private investment needed to build new homes in the town centre to attract wealthy commuters and families.

Mrs Waite was a leading member of Southend Council but lost her seat. She is chairman of the Rochford and Southend East Conservative Association.