Calls for Fareham’s opposition leader to quit due to low attendance record

Paul Whittle
Paul Whittle

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  • Tories and Ukip slam Lib Dem leader Paul Whittle
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FRESH calls have been made for a Fareham councillor who works full-time in Saudi Arabia to quit.

Lib Dem opposition leader Paul Whittle attended fewer than half of his required council meetings in the past year – one of the lowest rates on the whole council.

Cllr Whittle, councillor for Fareham East, attracted criticism last year when he took the role in the Middle East.

There were fears this job would not allow him enough time to concentrate on his council duties – a claim he strongly denied.

But a year on, his low meeting attendance (46 per cent since January 1) and absence at three important meetings – full council, executive and special full council signing off 6,000-home town Welborne – has prompted the fresh criticism, plus calls for him to pay back half of his £13,000 annual allowance.

Tory Peter Davies, who represents Fareham North West and has a 95 per cent attendance record, said: ‘He should go now. I want him to pack up and clear out and he should pay back the money he has taken from the council and the taxpayer.’

I get many supportive messages from residents and colleagues about my work, so while that is the case, I consider it a privilege and duty to serve the public efficiently and effectively, and that is what I will do.

Lib Dem leader Paul Whittle

Cllr Davies said he’d like the other two councillors with the lowest attendance records since January 1 – independent Nick Gregory 53 per cent and Tory David Whittingham 45 per cent – to resign.

The only Ukip member of the council, Chris Wood, encouraged people to vote for his party at the next election, so it could effectively challenge the ruling Tories.

Cllr Wood, who represents Stubbington and has a 100 per cent attendance record, said: ‘We’ll be the real opposition. Having a 46 per cent attendance record is not providing a proper opposition for Fareham, it’s that simple.’

Cllr Whittle said he attended 12 out of 15 full council meetings in the past 18 months, an 80 per cent record.

He said: ‘Full council meetings are the ones that matter.

‘They exceptionally include a number of extra, short notice meetings on key issues where, as an employed person, I’ve gone to great efforts to attend to fulfil my duty.

‘The recent June special meeting was called at short notice and I had a prior commitment. It was a formality anyway after I’d attended previous meetings where issues were debated.’

He added: ‘I get many supportive messages from residents and colleagues about my work, so while that is the case, I consider it a privilege and duty to serve the public efficiently and effectively, and that is what I will do.’