The mayor of a town in Nottinghamshire has been told to resign after he spent most of the past six months working in Saudi Arabia.
The Liberal Democrat Mayor of Stapleford, Kevin Thomas, has attended only 15 events since he was elected in May, compared to the 26 attended by his deputy, the Nottingham Post reports.
Mr Thomas has been working 4,000 miles away for an employment firm in the Middle Eastern country, returning to the town he is supposed to represent for only one week each month and instead performing civic duties “over the phone or by email”.
But Independent councillor Richard MacRae believes Mr Thomas should have stepped down when he took on the job in Saudi Arabia.
“Kevin is a really nice bloke but he has a position to represent the council and he can’t do that from the other side of the world.
“If he can’t put 100 per cent into it, it is time to step down. The money he gets for being mayor should be given to the deputy because he is doing all the work.”
Mr Thomas, who receives a £400 a month allowance for being mayor, said he was planning to move back to Stapleford later this month.
“I have attended some things but my commitments have taken me away. Since July, I have spent three weeks there and one week back here each month.
“At the time I was elected mayor, I did not know I was going to be working abroad. I was elected to represent the town and I can still do that from Saudi Arabia over the phone and via email.”
And he defended his decision to continue in the honoured position by saying that he receives “daily emails” from the council’s clerk and read through agendas after meetings.
He added: “There are some months, especially in the summer, when nothing happens at the council. We also have a very good deputy mayor who attends events in my absence.”
The deputy in question, Ray Darby, has been standing in for events and visits as well as chairing town council meetings. It is understood the council is considering making a special payment to Mr Darby in addition to his £100 allowance for doing his colleague’s work in his absence.
He supported his colleague, the situation was “unfortunate” but denying that Mr Thomas should step down from the position.
But many Stapleford residents have taken a different view, including nurse Lisa Clarke who said the local people “Want to be represented by people who live and work in the area. You want your town mayor to have a hands-on approach.”
Another resident, Terence Frost, said he was “not surprised” to find the mayor living in a different continent altogether.
“We’ve had two councillors who were living down south, so I’m not surprised we have another in Saudi Arabia” he said, referring to councillors who moved to Somerset and one who moved to London.
Liberal Democrat council leader Jackie Williams disagreed Mr Thomas should step down, calling the situation “unfortunate” and saying “sometimes work and family have to come first.”