A TORY council candidate has been criticised after it emerged she previously described her hometown – the area in which she is running for election next month – as “horrible”.

Debbie Caplin, previously a UKIP official, calls herself a “lifelong resident” of the Leasowe and Moreton East council ward, where, like last year, she will stand in next month’s Local Elections.

But it has emerged this week that, speaking in her capacity as the treasurer of her former party’s Wirral branch in 2016, she spoke about the area she is from – Moreton – in rather unfavourable terms.

Ms Caplin has been defended by her party for “saying what she thinks”, with the comments described as being out of context.

The Observer reported Ms Caplin as saying she had “always voted Labour”. She told the paper: “It was how I was brought up. I come from a horrible area. People who had nothing.

“I turned to UKIP because I thought they were for the people and this country. I felt that had fallen away from Labour – and I feel that even more now.”

On Tuesday, Wirral Labour described the statement as “disgraceful”.

A party source said: “Voters will take a very dim view on a candidate who describes their local community as horrible. Wirral residents will rightly ask why she’s seeking to represent them in the Town Hall if that is how she really feels about our beautiful borough.

“Wirral doesn’t need any more Tory representatives to poison our politics, and Ms Caplin should do the honourable thing and apologise for these disgraceful remarks.

“Will the Tory group leader [Cllr] Ian Lewis distance himself from his candidate’s comments?”

Cllr Lewis responded by defending Ms Caplin, one of 22 Conservative candidates standing across Wirral in the poll on May 2.

He said: “In the full article, Debbie Caplin describes how she grew up in a difficult, traditional Labour area – she’s not the only one, so did I and thousands of others. There’s nothing wrong with that. Debbie, her family and her neighbours had been let down by years of Labour neglect and she stopped voting for them.

“There’s plenty of places in Wirral that no doubt feel the same. The difference between Debbie and other candidates is she says what she thinks. Good for her – it’s a pity we don’t have more people like that on the council.”

Ms Caplin, who works as an environmental contract manager, stood in the Leasowe and Moreton East ward last year, where she increased the Conservative share of the vote by 10%.

Cllr Lewis added: “At least now we know why nobody has seen or heard of the Labour Party in Leasowe and Moreton – they’re too busy trawling the internet, looking for dirt on their opponent.”

The Observer story came in July 2016, with the quotes taken from a meeting of the Wirral UKIP branch held at Liscard’s Misty Blues pub.

It was in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, when Ms Caplin also said the party’s “problem” was that Mr Farage had resigned soon after the country voted to leave the European Union. She added: “I wish he hadn’t.”

The article reported how UKIP had started its search for a new leader, assessing the chances of the potential candidates.

Ms Caplin was branch treasurer at the time, and is described in the story as a “smart, friendly woman who recognises the importance of immigration”.

She told the paper “the country would collapse without it, but it needs to be controlled”.

It’s the second time in a year Ms Caplin has come under fire, after it was revealed last year she had called for the removal of Prime Minister Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond prior to joining the Conservatives.

Ms Caplin was defended by her party on that occasion too, after the tweets were exposed by Labour, who described the Conservative opposition as being “in disarray”.

Leasowe and Moreton East is expected to be one of the key battlegrounds in Wirral’s Local Elections next month.

Aside from Ms Caplin, the other candidates standing in the ward are Michael Dixon for the Green Party and Karl Greaney for Labour.