Councillor swaps Bognor Regis for USA during winter months

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FLYAWAY councillor Jeanette Warr has been dealing with Bognor Regis residents from the other side of the world.

Cllr Warr has spent more than three months living in the USA while she conducts her council duties.

There are 4,400 miles between the town and her Florida base, and five time zones, but she has kept her transatlantic link through emails and websites.

It is the latest of some seven long-distance spells in which she has remained a Liberal Democrat member of Arun and Bognor councils where she represents the Hotham ward.

Cllr Warr, 77, defended her actions and said she had always stayed within the law for councillors to attend one meeting every six months.

“I take my vacations in one block, whereas maybe others take weeks here and there, probably amounting to the same time that I have,” she said from her home in Florida.

“Of course, in this day and age, it is very easy to conduct business through the internet.

“Any calls that I might have from residents are dealt with from here or I refer them to the relevant councillor.

“I, unlike a lot of councillors, attend every possible meeting while I am in the UK. You will always see me supporting my fellow councillors 100 per cent.”

She left for America in early December and is due back at the end of this month.

Her absences were highlighted by Arundel resident Robert Wheal at last week’s full meeting of Arun District Council.

He asked a series of questions which the council’s cabinet member for corporate governance, Dudley Wensley, answered under the council’s rules.

These confirmed Cllr Warr’s holidays lasted three to four months, had taken place for at least seven years and she continued to claim her annual and IT allowances while away.

Last year’s figures show she was paid £5,259.88 in all for her Arun duties.

Mr Wheal said outside the meeting the case of Cllr

Warr showed the need to reform the system of paying councillors.

“Councillors used to be paid an allowance only for each meeting they attended.

“It is clear that, at some time past, these vested interested parties have voted themselves full annual allowances regardless of attendance record,” he said.

“Why are we paying for councillors to be absent sunning themselves in Florida at the expense of the taxpayer? We need to get back to the old system of only paying allowances for each meeting.”

Cllr Warr said she had always received permission from the Lib Dem group in Bognor to take her lengthy breaks.

“I have served my town for 20 years. I have not in my view, or that of my colleagues, been a flippant or uncaring councillor.

“Bognor has been my chosen home and I care for our town, and have always aimed to do my best.”

Cllr Warr lives on The Esplanade when she is in Bognor. She has served as the town mayor in 1997 and 2005 during her lengthy time in politics in the town.

The chairman of Bognor Regis Civic Society Hugh Coster said: “It’s a councillor’s presence and their ability to do their job that counts.

“For any councillor, any extended period of absence can’t be a good thing.

“A councillor is supposed to be present to deal with matters that arise.

“I wonder how easy it would be for them to do so when they are not present for a period of time.

“There has to be a question mark over how effective they can be.”

Francis Oppler, the leader of the Lib Dem group on Arun District Council, said: “Cllr Mrs Warr is one of the most active and hard-working councillors I know.

“She picks up all her messages while she is away and emails her colleagues and council officers.

“She carries on doing her casework and, as far as I am concerned, she provides a seamless service to the local community.

“Cllr Mrs Warr is a well-liked councillor.”