Call for councillor to step down because he has flat 80 miles away from his ward
CALLS have been made for a councillor to step down — because he spends part of the week living 80 miles away from the ward he represents.
Cllr Sean Harkin spends some time living in Dalton-in-Furness in Cumbria because of his job as a solicitor.
He said his time is split between Dalton and his ward of Westhoughton North and Chew Moor.
Cllr Harkin insisted he is always available by phone and email and that he has only missed one council meeting since he was elected in 2012.
But fellow ward councillor Martyn Cox believes that Cllr Harkin should “do the decent thing” and step aside, surrendering his £11,000 council allowance.
Cllr Cox, who is standing for re-election for the Conservatives tomorrow, added: “I don’t really like it when politics gets personal, but I think it is a prerequisite that to stand in a ward you should either live there or have a business there.
“Voters will usually accept if you live fairly near to the ward, but what they won’t accept is living more than 70 miles away.
“Sean is a nice young lad and he is trying to pursue a career, but I just think he should stop claiming his allowance and stand down at the first possible opportunity. This kind of thing makes the public furious and gives politicians a bad name.”
Joining the criticism of the Labour councillor is Liberal Democrat David Wilkinson, who sits on Westhoughton Town Council and is standing for the Westhoughton South seat.
He said: “The issue is about being a Bolton councillor and the issue around the £11,000 allowance — which is more than many people in Bolton earn themselves. You’re being paid to do a job and you can’t have this situation where you live a good distance away.”
Cllr Harkin has dismissed the calls, saying that he does live in his ward and is registered to vote there.
He added: “My work is in Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow. In the first two cases, I commute from my house in Westhoughton. It is only when I have to work in Barrow that I live in a flat which I rent in Dalton.
“I think my record of attendance at council meetings shows I am able to do the job and I am always easily contactable by phone or email.
"I would say it is something of a coincidence that this issue has been raised just before the elections.”
In April, former Horwich and Blackrod councillor Lindsey Kell stepped down because she said her work commitments took her out of the borough.
Cllr Harkin said his position was “completely different” to that of Ms Kell, who was living 175 miles away in Oxfordshire.
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