Castle Point Council is one of the first in the country to vote in favour of scrapping controversial rules banning the positive promotion of homosexuality.

Labour councillor George Wilson successfully persuaded colleagues to back moves to drop the controversial Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, introduced by the last Thatcher administration.

The clause stopped libraries from stocking books promoting homosexuality and banned teachers from discussing homosexual relationships with pupils.

Mr Wilson, speaking at Castle Point's full council meeting, compared Section 28 to the discrimination which took place against gipsies and Jews in Europe in the 1930s.

He said: "Section 28 prevents people receiving the help and support they need. It stops school children being able to go to their teachers for advice because their teachers are too afraid to speak to them on the subject.

"Often young people feel they cannot speak to their parents about what they feel and they are left ignorant and alone.

"The clause means schools fall outside the healthy schools initiative scheme which we are trying to promote.

"We want to stop bullying but how can we do this if teachers cannot discuss the issue of why some boys are being bullied.

"Section 28 is the first page in the book for bigots. It harks back to the horrific practices in the 1930s that were carried out against gipsies, Jews and homosexuals during the holocaust.

"Its repeal is essential to enable all to live free from intimidation."

Labour councillor Jenifer Howlett, seconding the motion, said: "Ignorance spreads fear and we don't want this."

Leader of the Conservative Group councillor Doug Roberts voted against the move.

He said: "Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 is intended to do no more than prevent local authorities spending public money on promoting homosexuality.

"We oppose the repeal of Section 28. Conservatives want to divert more resources into improving education - public money should be spent on raising standards in schools, not furthering a particular minority agenda."

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