SUPPORT has been shown for a Lib Dem leader after figures showed that he had attended just 46 per cent of required council meetings this year.
Earlier this week councillor Paul Whittle, the leader of Fareham’s opposition party and ward councillor for Fareham East, came under fire after his attendance rate was ranked as the second lowest on the whole council.
There were calls from both the Conservatives and Ukip for the politician, who had also failed to show up to the Local Government Association’s annual conference the week before, to quit and to pay back half of his £13,000 council allowance.
Cllr Whittle, who works full-time in Saudi Arabia, said he had worked hard for his residents and he had sometimes not been able to make short-notice meetings due to work commitments, but said that he had attended 80 per cent of full council meetings in the last 18 months.
Fellow Lib Dem and Fareham East ward councillor Katrina Trott spoke out in support of Cllr Whittle.
She said: ‘Paul Whittle is, in my opinion, a highly motivated leader of our local party and acquits himself most effectively in council, providing a robust opposition to the Tories’ almost total domination of Fareham Borough Council. He has my full and unreserved support.’
Also coming to Cllr Whittle’s defence was David Walton, chairman of Wallington Village Community Association.
Mr Walton is also part of Inform Fareham, a campaign group against development in Fareham, such as 6,000-home town Welborne destined for fields north of the town, which Cllr Whittle opposed.
He said: ‘The ruling Conservatives have plumbed new depths in yet another attack on Cllr Whittle.
‘It is 2015 and business is conducted electronically via Skype, messaging and messenger on a global scale and will increasingly be so.
‘Cllr Whittle is an excellent and very effective councillor, whose intellectual capacity is very significantly in excess of many of those who I have had the misfortune to witness in the council chamber over recent years.’
However, these sentiments were not shared by the Tax Payers’ Alliance, which urged residents to petition for a by-election.
Chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: ‘A councillor’s main responsibility has to be to his or her constituents. This sorry tale shows that we need a proper recall mechanism which allows for voters to have the final say on whether these individuals should remain in post, through a petition that could trigger a by-election.
‘Those who have hired should have the power to fire, too. Ultimately, for all the smoke and fury, there is very little democratic recourse available for constituents who may feel they’ve been shafted until the next election.’