A BOURNEMOUTH councillor has apologised after using a racist term during a debate on bus cuts.

Conservative Cllr Stephen Clarke used the term "n****r in the woodpile" to describe the loss of the number 31 bus service and its devastating effect on Southbourne residents.

Shocked cabinet members made clear their disapproval and Liberal Democrat Cllr Jean Moore interrupted his speech to register her objection.

Cllr Clarke then withdrew the term after being asked to do so by council leader Cllr Richard Smith.

"If I made any indiscreet statement, I'm sorry," said Cllr Clarke.

"I used the wrong terminology."

The expression has its roots in the murder, lynching and burning of black people on a wood fire during the 19th and early 20th century and has been widely condemned as an offensive and racist term.

David Shire, director of Dorset Race Equality, said he was not personally offended by the remark but thought it ignorant.

"It offends me that I live in a society where people are not grown up enough to expand their vocabulary," he said.

"Most reasonable people would not find this offensive but they would think he is an idiot.

"Why is he not grown up enough to find another way of expressing himself?

"We need to find a new, more respectful way of communicating with each other."

Stephen MacLoughlin, leader of Bournemouth's Conservative group, said: "Cllr Clarke confirmed to me that he did use the phrase.

"However, he did not intend to offend any individual or group and he apologised at the time for using the expression.

"I confirm that the Conservative group on Bournemouth council fully support the council's policies on equality and diversity."