The Nottinghamshire mayor who's living in Saudi Arabia
The mayor of a Nottinghamshire town has spent most of the past six months working in Saudi Arabia.
Mayor of Stapleford Kevin Thomas (pictured) has attended only 15 events since he was elected in May. His deputy has attended the other 26.
The Liberal Democrat councillor has been working 4,000 miles away, for an employment firm – returning to Stapleford for one week each month and performing civic duties “over the phone or by email”.
Deputy mayor Ray Darby has been standing in for Mr Thomas at cheque presentations and school visits, as well as chairing town council meetings.
Mr Thomas follows in the footsteps of Stapleford councillors Brian and Christine Wombwell, who moved to Somerset, and Russell Whiting, who was living in London, during their terms of office.
Mr Thomas, who receives a £400 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.”
Mr Thomas said he received “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 mayor is appointed by fellow members to represent the town on a day-to-day basis.
The council is now considering making a special payment to deputy mayor Mr Darby, in addition to his £100 allowance, in recognition of his extra work.
Other councillors have also attended events on three occasions on the mayor’s behalf.
Mr Darby said: “If Mr Thomas needs to work, I don’t mind stepping up if he is away. I think it is just unfortunate this has happened. I don’t think he should step down.”
But Stapleford resident Lisa Clarke does not believe the mayor has been able to fulfil his duties from Saudi Arabia.
The 40-year-old nurse said: “We want to be represented by people who live and work in the area. You want your town mayor to have a hands-on approach.”
In 2013, the Post revealed that three councillors were not living in Stapleford. Mr Whiting and Mrs Wombwell stepped down from their positions. However, Mr Wombwell is still a councillor and is still based in Somerset.
Retired control room operator Terence Frost, 69, of Talbot Drive, said: “We’ve had two councillors who were living down south, so I’m not surprised we have another in Saudi Arabia.”
Independent councillor Richard MacRae believes Mr Thomas should have stepped down when he took on the job in Saudi Arabia.
The Stapleford north ward representative said: “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.”
But Liberal Democrat council leader Jackie Williams said: “It is unfortunate but sometimes work and family have to come first. Our deputy has done a fantastic job. The mayor has attended some events and I don’t think there has been a necessity for him to step down.
“I will be looking to see if the deputy can be given a small honorarium due to the number of extra events he has had to attend.”
Mr Thomas has not claimed any expenses to date.
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Not long after the Nottingham Post broke this story it was soon picked up and published by the national news papers.