Opposition leader steps down as job in Middle East becomes '˜demanding'

A LOCAL councillor who has a full-time job in Saudi Arabia has quit his role with the authority.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2016, 6:36 am
Paul Whittle

Fareham East ward councillor Paul Whittle has resigned, saying juggling his work in the Middle East and serving as a councillor has become ‘more demanding’.

Calls were made for the Lib Dem opposition leader to step down after he went to just five of the 11 debates he was expected at between April and October last year – a 46 per cent attendance rate.

Tory council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘Paul Whittle is absolutely correct when he says his “membership of the council is no longer appropriate”.

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‘In fact him re-standing for election in May 2014 was not appropriate, knowing he had just landed a full-time job in Saudi Arabia.

‘His attendance at meetings over the last two years has been abysmal and the people who elected him have been very poorly served.

‘Despite that he has drawn over £24,000 in allowances for doing next to nothing.’

As previously reported in The News, concerns were first raised about Mr Whittle’s Middle East job in August 2014 when he missed the Local Government Association conference due to work commitments when the council had spent more than £500 on his ticket.

At the time, Mr Whittle said his hours were flexible and he frequently flew back to his home in Fareham.

But residents living in his ward said they deserve someone who will spend more time in the area.

Harry Walker, of East Street, said: ‘Fareham deserves someone who spends more time in the ward in a month than Councillor Whittle did in a whole year.

‘Fareham has been forced to put up with a Lib Dem councillor with a disgraceful attendance record.’

A statement from the Fareham Liberal Democrats said: ‘We would like to thank Paul for his services to the local party, in carrying out his role as leader of the opposition on the council and more importantly representing Fareham East.

‘For more than a year the challenges of full-time work and being a councillor have become more demanding.’

It added: ‘Paul has always strived to put the interests of Fareham East first.

‘The council will be deprived of an excellent ward councillor whose goal was to ensure the role of the opposition was effective.’

A by-election will be held on May 5 to elect a replacement for Mr Whittle.

The Fareham Liberal Democrat statement added that Maryam Brady would be standing for the party.

Opposition leader’s profile likes obscene post on councillor

A FACEBOOK post which called Fareham council leader Sean Woodward an obscene name was ‘liked’ by the profile of the former Liberal Democrat opposition leader.

Paul Whittle’s Facebook account liked the post on the public page ‘Fareham – Countryside or More Housing? – The Big Debate’ which referred to Councillor Woodward and another Tory politician.

The comment and subsequent like was written on a story posted last Friday about Cllr Woodward stepping down from his county council role as executive member for economy, transport and environment.

Councillor Woodward said: ‘This is just another reason why it is inappropriate for Paul Whittle to be a councillor.’

Mr Whittle, who resigned as ward councillor for Fareham East and opposition leader last Friday, was not available for a comment when approached by The News.