Tuesday 21 January 2014

Swale borough councillors refuse to resign despite moving 150 miles away from their ward

Husband and wife councillors, Jean and Alan Willicombe, have attracted criticism from residents and some of their fellow councillors for refusing the give up their seats on Swale Borough Council after moving 150 miles away from Sittingbourne where they were elected to Lincolnshire.

The Willicombe's claim that they can still represent the interests of the people in Woodstock ward despite having no daily exposure to the problems and needs of the people they were elected to represent and that it would be unfair to make the taxpayer pay for a by-election when the seat is disappearing in 2015 due to boundary changes.

This sort of thing is quite rare but sadly not an isolated occurrence or even the most extreme example. In 2003 a councillor refused to resign after she moved to Bermuda just 3 weeks after being elected to Maidstone Borough Council. In 2010 a Telford & Wrekin borough councillor refused to resign after moving to Spain. A UKIP councillor in London tells us that at least three councillors in Merton have moved out of London but still sit on Merton Council.

This sort of behaviour, whilst legal, is morally wrong and the legislation covering the eligibility of councillors needs to be changed so that the criteria must be met continuously to remain a councillor. All too often the LibLabCon political parties will field candidates that don't want to be councillors and don't intend to stick around for a full term just to keep up the numbers. It deprives residents of effective representation and is just inexcusable.