A DISTRICT councillor has said he is still able to fullfill his duties despite living more than 8,500 miles away from the area he represents.
Steve Hayward still represents Ducklington on West Oxfordshire District Council despite living in South East Asia since June.
The former Mayor of Witney now helps to run two restaurants and a rice farm.
And he still claims his annual councillor allowance of more than £4,000 – which is being paid to him in monthly installments.
Mr Hayward – a former lorry driver – was first elected to as representative for Ducklington in 1999, but plans to stand down at the elections in May.
Last year he resigned from the Conservative Party after being “sacked” from a committee position and was deselected from his seat on Oxfordshire County Council.
Since the end of June he has attended one meeting – Cabinet in November – and can only vote on West Oxfordshire issues if attending a meeting in person. But he has said he would fly back to Witney if his presence was needed.
He said: “I have kept in contact with council officers, fellow councillors, constituents and others who have contacted me over this time. Using the telephone, e-mail and Skype I believe I have an excellent record of replying quickly.
“It has been one of my busiest years and I have been able to quickly deal with four council housing allocations and able to help in several local planning issues, mostly with satisfactory outcomes.
“I have been lucky that fellow councillors have been able to help when immediate action was necessary, much the same as if I was driving my lorry or out of the area.”
Mr Hayward – listed by the council as being a member of three committees – owns a 10 per cent stake in and runs two restaurants and bars in Khao Lak plus a small share in a rice and sugar farm.
The district council is still paying him his basic allowance of £4,350 a year.
To seek council election a candidate must – on the day of their nomination – be an elector in the local authority area, own land or premises there, have their main place of work there or have lived there for the whole of 12 months before the day of the election. Once elected, a councillor does not have to resign if none of these criteria no longer apply.
West Oxfordshire District Council chief executive David Neudegg said: “The minimum legal requirement is for a councillor to attend at least one council meeting in any six month period to remain in office.
“A councillor cannot be disqualified by the district council if they move out of the area. It is up to them to decide whether they should continue or resign.”
Former chairman of Ducklington parish council Gordon Clack, who lives in Witney Road, said: “It is outrageous We keep hearing about cuts, but we never hear about cuts to councillor expenses.
“I spent about 12 years on our parish council and my home was an office, but I never claimed a penny. Now you have professional councillors.
“I cannot see how he can do his job. If someone choses to live abroad surely the moral thing to do is to resign.”