STEVE HAYWARD is no doubt perfectly sincere in his belief that he can be an effective councillor in Ducklington from his home in Thailand. But the real problem here is the system that is allowing this farcical situation to continue.
No matter how diligent Mr Hayward is and no matter what technology is at his disposal, it cannot be argued that he can do as good a job as if he was domiciled in Ducklington, within arm’s reach of his constituents.
Mr Hayward, who now runs two bars in the Khao Lak area of Thailand, is quoted today saying that he is able to fulfil his West Oxfordshire District Council duties using the phone, email and Skype. He even says he is prepared to fly the 8,500 miles back to Witney should there be a meeting that requires his attendance.
For this he is collecting his £4,350-a-year allowance and will not resign his seat, preferring to not stand again come the council elections in May. And because he has attended one meeting in the past six months – a cabinet meeting in November – he cannot be forced to step down.
It flies in the face of common sense.
Being a local councillor means dealing with a range of local issues. And that means being local.
It is essential that a councillor can deal with constituents face-to-face and then, if necessary, take forward their concerns to political colleagues, officers or other organisations personally.
No matter what Mr Hayward says, the arrangement is a farce.
He is doing what he can, but those overseeing local government must make changes to ensure there can is no repeat.