Independent councillors call for resignation of Tory town councillor who has left Wisbech and moved to Lincolnshire

Stephen Brunton. Octavia Hill.(Con)

Stephen Brunton. Octavia Hill.(Con) - Credit: Archant

Husband and wife independent members of Wisbech Town Council have called for the resignation of a Conservative councillor who has kept his seat but moved to Lincolnshire.

Councillor Mike Bucknor believes Councillor Stephen Brunton – who last attended a meeting in November- should resign and force a by election in Octavia ward.

“If Cllr Brunton only had a few weeks left to serve his ward it would have been prudent to stay on,” he said.

“In this case he still has over three years to serve and therefore should do the honourable thing and resign.”

His wife, Cllr Virginia Bucknor, said: “I understand he moved some months ago, very suddenly, and the local Tories decided to keep it a secret. He might turn up to a meeting so that he can legally remain a councillor but morally it’s quite appalling.”

In a social media post she added: “A lady was elected to the town council for Staithe ward in May. She moved to Peterborough a few weeks later, the Tories called a by election, held last Sept.

“Aigars Balsevics, her employer, unsuccessful in the May elections for Waterlees, was elected in her place.

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“In November another Conservative councillor moves even further away, apparently quite suddenly.

“The local Conservative Party is aware, even a fellow Conservative councillor moves into his home so apparently he won’t be returning. They decide to keep his departure secret rather than call a by election.”

Councillor Steve Tierney, chairman of Wisbech Conservatives, defended Cllr Brunton’s decision to remain in a series of posts on Twitter.

“People do occasionally take a leave of absence,” he tweeted. “Being a councillor is not just about a meeting.”

On whether he should resign, Cllr Tierney said: “That’s his decision. He’s well liked and works hard. I hope it works out for him and his constituents support him.”

Referring to the reason for Cllr Brunton’s departure – to move in with his girlfriend- Cllr Tierney tweeted: “I hope people would find the love story understandable and endearing.”

Cllr Brunton has not attended a meeting since November and has until May 22 to attend his next meeting or risk being disbarred.

But Cllr Brunton said: “At the moment I feel I can still represent the town.”

He said he returned on a regular basis, had his family still living in the town, and felt he was able to continue to represent those who elected him

He added: “However should anyone says I am not able to represent them I will consider whether it is right to stand down.

“The cost of a by election is said to be around £7,000 – it is not a good use of town reserves at this time to pay this.”

Cllr Brunton has moved out of his Railway Road home and, says town clerk Terry Jordan, no longer lives in Fenland.

However Mr Jordan said that Cllr Brunton remained a town councillor for the time being although he was not sure where he was now living. Mr Jordan confirmed that Cllr Brunton last attended a town council meeting on November and has six months from then to attend a further meeting to avoid disqualification under the ‘six month’ rule.

Cllr Brunton was one of four successful Tory candidates in last May’s elections for the Octavia Hill ward in Wisbech; Conservatives Sam Hoy, David Hodgson and Peter Human won the other seats.

Mr Jordan said the town council corresponded with Cllr Brunton via email.