A TORY councillor has branded buy-to-let landlords "parasites" who ought to be "taxed out of existence" in an email seen by the Journal.

Chris Devine, Wiltshire councillor for Winterslow, was responding to a campaigner who claimed changes to the law would force landlords to pay more tax.

The email from Gareth Wilson said the "discriminatory" changes announced in the budget were a "stab in the back" for Tory-voting landlords and would worsen the housing crisis — sending rents soaring, and bringing suffering to "countless numbers of tenants".

In his reply, Cllr Devine wrote: "Do you seriously believe that the buy-to-let brigade give a fig for those they are exploiting with high rents and short tenancies?

"Stop thinking about your own pocket and think about society. You lot are nothing but parasites and the sooner you are taxed out of existence the better.

"Just because I am a Conservative does not mean that I do not have a social conscience, well done to George Osbourne [sic]. As for you. Try doing some public service and stop snivelling."

Mark Alexander, founder of landlord support website property118.com, has branded Cllr Devine a "landlord basher".

He posted the "shocking and very disappointing" response on his website, which campaigns for landlords' interests and boasts "We help landlords to PAY LESS TAX".

But Cllr Devine told the Journal he stood by every word of his email, and had received many positive responses from "across the political spectrum".

Describing himself as a "social Conservative", Cllr Devine said: "People like that are absolutely destroying the housing stock. It's outrageous.

"It sickens me, that sort of thing. People who are making vast profits off the backs of those who can't afford it.

"It's so depressing. And for [Mr Wilson] to think that because we are Conservatives we somehow don't care about those who can least afford it I find very offensive."

James Fraser, a Conservative councillor in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, has complained to the chairman of Wiltshire Council about Cllr Devine's "deeply offensive" conduct.

Cllr Fraser - a friend of Mr Alexander and a landlord himself - also wrote to Cllr Devine, calling him rude, ignornat and ill-informed.

Cllr Devine described the entire episode as "pathetic".