Tue, 10 Apr 2018
WEST Berkshire Council’s ruling Conservative group has refused to take responsibility for the disqualification of one of its members.
Nick Goodes was booted off the district council last month for his chequered attendance at meetings and his dismissal has left local taxpayers footing a £5,000 bill to pay for an upcoming by-election.
Mr Goodes, formerly a Thatcham West ward member who was elected in May 2015, also resigned from his role on Thatcham Town Council owing to his work commitments.
The Conservative councillor was disqualified from office for not complying with West Berkshire Council’s constitution, which states members who fail to attend meetings for six consecutive months can be expelled.
At an executive meeting last week, West Berkshire Liberal Democrat chairman Tony Vickers asked council leader Graham Jones whether he would accept that responsibility lies with his party for allowing Mr Goodes to claim some £20,000 of taxpayers’ money during his three years in office.
West Berkshire Council members receive an annual basic allowance of £7,324 per year.
In his response, Mr Jones refused to accept his party was in the wrong and instead pointed the finger at the Liberal Democrats, singling out the attendance of its deputy leader, Alan Macro.
Mr Macro, who was absent from last Thursday’s meeting, has not attended a council meeting since December 21 last year and previously missed attending meetings over a five-month period in 2016-17.
“Mr Macro’s latest absence is at a critical time when he, as a local member, could have been helping secure the much-needed new Theale school,” said Mr Jones.
Mr Jones also claimed that Thatcham West residents have been “ably represented” by MrGoodes’ co-ward member, Steve Ardagh-Walter.
Mr Jones added that, although Mr Goodes was elected with the best of intentions, his work commitments often required him to work overseas.
Mr Vickers responded: “Are you seriously saying that nobody in your ruling Conservative council group – not even your salaried support officer – was able to spot beforehand NickGoodes’ absence from meetings for over six months?
“Yes, you do have some blame for causing the taxpayers of this district to have a by-election.”
Mr Jones, who remarked how Mr Vickers could not answer for the deficiency of Liberal Democrats, responded: “You know because you’ve done the job, local members do a lot more than attend meetings.
“Going to meetings is, in reality, the tip of the iceberg.”
Before storming out of the chamber, Mr Vickers said: “I don’t have to answer questions, you do.”
But opposition leader Lee Dillon (Thatcham North) claimed the comparison’s drawn by the council leader between Mr Goodes and his deputy were inaccurate.
Mr Dillon said: “Councillor Jones is trying to divert attention away from a Conservative councillor who has only attended a handful of meetings in three years, who claims his full allowance.
“Alan Macro, despite being on holiday, still accesses his emails on a regular basis and still provides concerns on issues he wants to raise.
“This includes responding to residents’ queries via email.
“As councillor Jones knows only too well, this also included working on the admission on the text for the FAQs for Theale Primary School.”