Hayling Island councillor who lives near Southampton faces call to step down

A CONSERVATIVE councillor who lives and works 17 miles away from her ward has hit back at a call to step down and cut her debut term of office a year short.

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th March 2019, 1:50 pm
From left, councillor David Guest, Havant MP Alan Mak, councillor Lulu Bowerman, councillor Joanne Thomas and ex Havant Borough Council leader Michael Cheshire at Havant Leisure Centre on the night of the 2016 local elections. Picture: Malcolm Wells (160506-4470)

Hayling West’s Joanne Thomas said she is ‘still part of the community’ after a campaigner branded her a ‘passenger’ and a drain on taxpayers' cash who has ‘little to contribute’. 

The damning assessment from Hayling Island teacher and activist Mark Coates has come two months before islanders vote in the local elections on May 2, 2019. 

Since Cllr Thomas was elected three years ago she has been to 28 of the 43 Havant Borough Council meetings she was expected to – a rate of 65 per cent. 

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But despite this, and her move from Hayling Island to Lower Swanwick 15 months after being elected, she said she ‘truly cares about Hayling’s future and residents’. 

‘With my partner also working in Southampton we made the conscious decision to buy our first house together and I moved off the island in October 2017,’ she said. 

‘I lived on Hayling Island for 28 years of my life, I grew up on the island, was schooled on Hayling and worked there for many years.

‘I am always available to residents via email or my mobile and I am always willing to help.

‘I may not go to sleep every night on Hayling anymore but I am still part of the community.’

Over the two financial years which have passed since she was elected Cllr Thomas has accepted £8,347 in basic pay as a councillor – with figures from April 2018 to April 2019 set to be published later this year. 

But Mr Coates, 44, said because of her attendance record and where she lives her constituents ‘are not getting value for money’. 

‘I think she should do the right thing and empty her seat for election so we can get someone in who does live in the area and wants to be a public servant who contributes to their community,’ he said. 

‘This is nothing against her personally, because she is very affable, but she is not councillor material.’ 

Cllr Thomas said she had recently seen ‘spiteful remarks and statements’ about herself on social media. 

Mike Fairhurst, chairman of the Havant Conservative Association, said he ‘wonders what the motivations really are’ behind Mr Coates' criticism. 

‘I have heard nothing in terms of dissatisfaction from residents – no-one has approached the Conservative Party about it,' he said. 

‘To my knowledge she has no intention of standing down.’