CONSERVATIVES on Littlehampton Town Council are without a leader following the resignation this week of town councillor Simon Weston.
Mr Weston, who won his River ward seat at the May, 2011 elections, moved to Grantham, Lincolnshire last week due to the demands of his work.
It is highly likely that his resignation will lead to a third by-election in River ward in less than three years, as a result of a Conservative town councillor standing down.
Former Tory group leader, town councillor Joyce Bowyer has since claimed his decision could cost taxpayers £10,000.
Less than six months after John Charles won one of three River ward seats for the Conservatives at the May, 2011 elections, he was forced to quit after it was revealed he was living outside the three-mile limit for town councillors. In December that year, he was succeeded by another Conservative, Roy Scrivener, who resigned the following September over new regulations requiring councillors to declare their own, and their partner’s interests.
Mr Weston succeeded Alan Gammon in the autumn of 2012 as leader of the Conservative group on the town council, which had swept into power three years ago, taking 11 of the 15 seats.
He told the Gazette: “I was thinking I was going to hang on until the next proper elections (in May, 2015), but my job meant that I needed to move.
“I felt very guilty about now being able to attend council meetings – it’s an awful pressure on people who want to serve on their council, but work just gets in the way. The problem then is that you end up with a bunch of retired people and that’s not necessarily good for democracy.”
A group operations manager for a company manufacturing and distributing flues and chimneys, said he had always been a ‘proper Conservative’, but that his aim as the party’s group leader had been to ‘pull the whole council together and take the politics out of it’.
He added: “On certain things I am a Conservative with a big C, but at town council level, I think I am a conservative with a small c – it’s all about doing what is right in the community.”
Mr Weston said he would miss the town council and councillors, along with Littlehampton’s ‘beautiful’ river and the sea.
Labour town councillor Mike Northeast criticised the Conservatives’ record of representing River ward. “I feel sorry for the people of River ward, for the continued under-representation that they get when people don’t attend meetings or do their work in the ward and that falls on the other councillors,” he said.
Cllr Bowyer, said: “I’m cross because Simon has been quite an absent councillor. He never discussed leaving with anyone. It came out the blue.”
She added the council would need to spend £10,000 to change ballot papers for the upcoming European elections.