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Monday, March 23, 2009

Absentee politicians?

Even though he is fourth on the list of Labour European Candidates and has no chance of being elected, Leighton Veale has a whole page of the Western Mail devoted to him this morning. His crime is allegedly that he has been drawing allowances to serve as a councillor in the London Borough of Merton while working for a charity in Cardiff and living in Neath.

We are told that Mr. Veale does not sit on any committees but attends full Council and took part in the budget process this year. He uses e-mail and the telephone to deal with his constituents, which he considers to be acceptable. His Labour group leader has other views however.

Stephen Alambritis has publicly criticised Mr Veale and another Merton councillor who also lives outside London. He says they are leaving a “democratic deficit” in their ward:

Mr Alambritis said: “These councillors haven’t decided to get elected and then abscond elsewhere. There are good reasons for them to leave. But I can’t, as leader of their group, freeze their allowance or force them to live in their ward. The residents can take a view on this but I do have sympathy. I don’t want to be hypercritical of my councillors, but they are aware of my views, even though I can’t take any action."

It all has a familiar ring to it, though the Merton residents concerned will at least have the opportunity to give their verdict on the arrangement in just over a year's time. In the meantime Mr. Veale might be best advised not to be overly critical of his local community councillors, who do not have the benefit of his £8,000 allowance and who at least live within the qualifying area to serve on that Council.
"...and who at least live within the qualifying area to serve on that Council."

Erm..they dont, actually. The fact that the majority of the Plaid councillors on Blaenhonddan dont actually live in the areas they represent is the basis of the the letter Leighton wrote to the Neath Guardian.

Did you actually read the letter, Peter, before attacking him?
Er..no. If they did not live within the 'qualifying' area they could not serve as Councillors. There is a difference between the 'qualfying, area and the area the Community Council covers. In terms of Merton Mr. Veale lives within neither.
"Familiar ring" - surely you meam Mayals not Blaenhonddan???????????
The person we should all feel sorry for is poor David Chung who is the only Labour counicllor for Longthorton still living in the Borough of Merton. Veale lives in either Cardiff or Neath whilst Steve Austin has decided to represent his constituents from the wilds of Somerset. I liked Veale's justification for not standing down. He claimed that it would be an 'unnecessary expense to the taxpayer'to call an election. It all right of course to pocket over £8000 when in order to contact you, your constituents are told to contact the civic centre. No wonder the Leader of the now Labour opposition at Merton argued that there should be national legislation to stop this type of scam. As for Veale it is clear where his future lies. Anyone prepared to waste their time as the fourth candidate in the Euro election obviously has ambitions to be a full time politician one day. The criticism of PC councillors on a very small community council is obvioulsy linked to his ambition to one day replace probably Gwenda Thomas or Peter Hain as the full time AM or MP for Neath. With Derek Vaughan off to Eurpoe the way is clear for the return of the local boy made good.
So we're onto personals here... Kinzet, Veale and umm.. the whole of Plaid Cymru in Blaenhonddan. Remarkable that the PC bods got attacked for closing a community centre they spent £40k on refurbishing under their watch which has been shut since Labour took over in May... and now being attacked for the labour decision. Stone, glass houses and throwing stone come to mind. Cllr K needs to stop updating his facebook as "I'm back in London" possibly too.
Wasn't there a case of a libdem councillor in london moving to Australia and still claiming to be a councilor. Your all at all parties.
Libdem councillor does the same #1 Dizzy wrote last year http://dizzythinks.net/2008/10/that-london-councillor-who-lives-in.html

libdem councillors #2 http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/newshome/Councillors-to-switch-from-Gosport.4962529.jp

Kettle, pot black don't you think Peter?
If that was the case and it was a Lib Dem Councillor then I would condemn that too. However, the London Councillor referred to is not a Liberal Democrat as Dizzy makes clear, whilst the two in Gosport are still in Gosport. The article reports that they are planning to move to Australia but have not gone yet. When they go they will no doubt resign in the meantime they are continuing to represent their constituents from their home in Gosport.
Leighton Veale's justification for being an absentee councillor but drawing the basic allowance is very much like the justifications of all those MPs who abuse the Parliamentary allowances but justify it because th rules alow them to: within the rules but ethically unsound. Leighton's current stand may come back to haunt him should he persist with his attempts to earn a full-time living as an MP....not a good time!
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