Councillor accused of being 'two-faced' and 'heartless' over Leighton Buzzard member's continued absence for ill health
'I believe if Councillor Spurr is too unwell to resume his duties by the end of this year we should allow him to enjoy his retirement from this council'
The leader of Central Bedfordshire Council has accused an opposition councillor of being “two-faced” towards granting compassionate leave for a colleague suffering from illness.
The local authority was being asked to agree extended leave for Conservative Leighton Buzzard North Councillor Brian Spurr, who last attended a meeting on March 15.
CBC’s constitution and legislation requires councillors to attend at least one meeting every six months, said a report to the latest full council meeting.
“Their membership of the council ceases if they don’t meet the attendance requirement, unless the local authority has approved the reason for non-attendance.”
Councillor Spurr has suffered poor health over the last few months, according to the report, with the six-month period due to lapse on September 14.
“If Councillor Spurr was unable to return to duties after March 31, a by-election would be held in May 2022.”
Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham said: “None of us know when sudden illness or another personal issue might strike a councillor.
“I hope we have cross party support to extend Councillor Spurr’s absence from March 15 to the end of March 2022.”
Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker wished Councillor Spurr “a speedy recovery”, saying: “He’s always been a fair and incredibly decent councillor in his interactions with me.
“It’s only fair I afford him the same decency. I want to acknowledge the many years of service he’s given this council. But we’re elected to do a job and a role in our communities, and it’s an important one. It can also be time consuming and often hard work.
“I feel sure other Leighton Buzzard members have selflessly picked up the slack since March, when he became unwell.
“But doing that extra work for an entire year is a very long time and that’s what’s proposed,” she explained.
“I’m confident Councillor Wenham will want to safeguard the wellbeing of all of his members and reduce the inevitable impact of that workload.
“I believe if Councillor Spurr is too unwell to resume his duties by the end of this year we should allow him to enjoy his retirement from this council, without ongoing pressure to return to this chamber.”
She suggested “it seems impossible” for Councillor Spurr to retain his role as deputy executive member for health and wellbeing in the circumstances, adding: “During the pandemic, Councillor Stock clearly requires robust support from her deputy, which is sadly not an option at the current time.
“I suggest the end of the year is both reasonable and fair to him, while ensuring his residents get the support they also need. I sincerely hope he’s back in the chamber soon, but if that can’t happen I propose we allow him to leave this council in a timely and dignified way.”
Conservative Ampthill councillor Paul Duckett said: “I’m just prompted at the heartless manner in which they want to shoot an old horse basically.
“It’s the most atrocious way of approaching loyal service for which you don’t get paid an awful lot.
“Brian has delivered so much for his residents and donated so much time to it over the years.”
Independent Flitwick councillor Gareth Mackey said: “Councillor Spurr has never been anything short of helpful, affable and had a deep interest in what his residents want and need.
“The least we can do is offer him time to recuperate and hopefully see him back in this chamber.”
Councillor Stock said: “He might return sooner. We don’t know. Councillor Spurr has the council going through his blood.”
Councillor Wenham added: “The opposition member for Biggleswade was somewhat two-faced in the comments. It started off with praise for Councillor Spurr, but there’s always a ‘but’ and always a pretty snide ‘but’ to be quite honest.”
Councillors approved his extended leave of absence until March 21, 2022.