ARGUS readers have described two Green councillors as "entitled" and "arrogant" after one of them said it was "not for other people to judge" thousands of pounds in childcare claims made by his wife.

Councillors Tom Druitt defended expense claims made by his wife, Councillor Alex Phillips, from an allowance scheme that campaigners say helps women "struggling financially due to childcare costs".

Cllr Druitt, CEO of the Big Lemon bus company, and Cllr Phillips, who used to earn more than £100,000 a year while serving as a member of the European Parliament, were described as being "two of the wealthiest councillors" by a member of the public in a council meeting earlier this year.

Cllr Phillips was entitled to make the claims, and there is no suggestion that she broke any rules.

But Gary Farmer, the founder of the Old Steine Community Association, accused Cllr Druitt and other Green councillors of arrogance in their attitudes to residents.

He said: "It's not shocking - it's almost expected; they work the system and they know exactly what they're doing. It's blind arrogance."

Patrick Holmes on Facebook objected to Cllr Druitt's suggestion that "it's really not for other people to judge if people have made personal choices to claim expenses to which they are perfectly entitled".

Mr Holmes said: "It is for other people to judge when it's them that are picking up the bill."

A statement from The Friends of Brighton and Hove Citizens' Action Group added: "The very real public concerns of the local taxpayers are based on a couple of councillors with multiple income streams, one of which who made - by a substantial amount - the very highest expense claims for childcare of any Brighton and Hove councillors, all of which come out of the public purse."

On Twitter, "Sussex resident and academic" Norman Blair described the claims as being "just your typical entitled Green councillors looking after their own self interests".

The couple also faced criticism for spending the first four months of lockdown at their holiday home in France.

Cllr Druitt explained that at the time they left for the French Alps on March 5 last year, the pandemic was "still very much a Chinese problem", despite Brighton reporting its first case a month before and France reporting more than 400 cases by that time.

In a statement, the Friends of Brighton and Hove Citizens' Action Group said it was "irresponsible to travel abroad" when Covid had already been discovered in the city, and said the residents and businesses of Brighton and Hove should have been their priority.

The group also said that the couple could "easily have repatriated themselves, as any other Brits abroad had to and could easily have got back if they really wished to return and serve their local residents and businesses".

Laura King on Facebook called on the councillors to resign.

Addressing the couple, she said: "You deserted your ward at the onset of a worldwide pandemic for a holiday abroad and then decided to stay there."

Another user on Facebook, Andy Maclay, said: "They had so many opportunities to come back but it was clearly not a priority for them to be in Brighton and Hove when local people were having to deal with a global crisis.

"They've treated Brighton and Hove residents as mugs."

However, one commenter defended the couple, saying that they "went away before it all hit and stayed where they were for safety reasons and carried on working."

"They did the right thing, and shouldn't apologise that they are lucky enough to have a second home which came from the loss of a family member," they added.

The couple left for the French Alps on March 5, a month after Brighton reported its first case of coronavirus.

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