Barnstaple councillor set to quit

DISTRICT Councillor and former Barnstaple Mayor John Wilsher says he will give up his seat on North Devon Council amid concerns over his attendance record since he moved out of the area. Cllr Wilsher will end his 12 years of service when he stands down ne

DISTRICT Councillor and former Barnstaple Mayor John Wilsher says he will give up his seat on North Devon Council amid concerns over his attendance record since he moved out of the area.

Cllr Wilsher will end his 12 years of service when he stands down next April.

His wife, Jane, told the Gazette this week that Mr Wilsher, 61, left home before Christmas to attend a college reunion in Wales and never came back.

"After 36 years of marriage, he's left me for an old college girlfriend he last saw 43 years ago," said Mrs Wilsher, 58.


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"He has walked away from everything he had in Barnstaple and left me to pick up the pieces.

Everyone is in total shock; they can't believe it.

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"He has built his reputation on being a Barnstaple boy and has walked away from it."

Mrs Wilsher said she was now divorcing her husband, who was Mayor of Barnstaple from 1998 to 2000 and chairman of the district council in 2006-7.

According to figures given to the Gazette, Cllr Wilsher, 61, attended 41 per cent of meetings during the municipal year from April 09 to 10. He attended four out of 14 planning meetings; two out of seven personnel meetings; three out of five staff consultation panel sub-committee meetings; and five out of eight full council meetings. He has claimed travelling expenses for 336 miles, paid at 40p a mile, during 2009/10. His basic annual allowance is �4,570

Cllr Wilsher, a retired primary school head teacher, said: "There are reasons why I left and those reasons are personal, I moved away in December last year and as anyone who has moved house will tell you, it was an unsettling time.

"It is fair to say that my attendance at meetings during that time dwindled but I am now in Barnstaple twice a week most weeks and have attended every meeting I would normally attend during the last seven or eight weeks.

"I am always available by phone or email and am still playing a full part in the council and intend to do so for the remainder of my tenure, which is less than a year."

Cllr Wilsher called the concerns about his attendance at meetings "nonsense" and said it had only been highlighted to "score political points".

The Gazette understands that the district council's Liberal Democrat group, of which Mr Wilsher is a member, were set to meet last night (Tuesday) to discuss the situation.

Leader of the Conservative-led council, Cllr Des Brailey said a councillor did not have to live in the area to be a councillor, although he or she must attend council once in a sixth-month period.

"Councillor Wilsher has not broken any rules by living in Swansea," he said. "Can he serve his residents in the appropriate manner from Swansea? That is a question for him and his residents to answer.

"In my personal view to be able to help and assist the residents of an area a councillor should live in or close to the community."

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