From Kentish Town to Arizona - fury as councillor hangs on to Camden seat
PUBLISHED: 12:53 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:22 07 September 2010
By Katie Davies A KENTISH TOWN councillor is representing thousands of constituents while 5,500 miles away in Arizona – pocketing £700 a month in allowances. Lib Dem councillor Philip Thompson, 26, moved to Tucson, Arizona last month to study a PhD withou
By Katie Davies
A KENTISH TOWN councillor is representing thousands of constituents while 5,500 miles away in Arizona - pocketing £700 a month in allowances.
Lib Dem councillor Philip Thompson, 26, moved to Tucson, Arizona last month to study a PhD without telling his constituents.
And the Ham&High can reveal the bizarre move is being supported by his party and council leader, Keith Moffitt.
Mr Thompson - one of Camden's youngest councillors - will continue to pocket the £700 monthly allowance he earns in his role while he completes the course, which could take up to three years.
Speaking from Tucson, Cllr Thompson said: "I never expected to have the opportunity to come here but it was an opportunity too difficult to pass up.
"There is no reduced service for people in Kentish Town, I have carried on with all my casework.
"It is not a thing to cling onto for the sake of it, I enjoy being a councillor and I will not continue to do it if it is impossible. I will be talking to my colleagues in Kentish Town and to Keith, as well as the people of Kentish Town.
"I am fully aware of the world-class universities in Camden borough but unfortunately this is my specialism, so for me, it is the best place to study it."
Cllr Moffitt said he was monitoring and discussing the situation, but "legally" there was "no reason for him to stand down".
"If he feels he can't do his role as councillor justice from there, I am sure that he will decide not to," he said.
"He is a backbencher, not a member of the executive, and he can do a lot of community casework by email. Modern technology means we are just living very differently to how we did 10 or 20 years ago."
Cllr Thompson gave up the lease on his Fortess Road home and his smiling photo has been put on The University of Arizona website .
It is easy to see why the area has raised spirits for the politician, with the Grand Canyon National Park on his doorstep, 300 days of sun a year and an average temperature of 27C this month.
But residents in rainy Kentish Town are not as upbeat as their globe-trotting representative, who is living eight hours behind them.
Chairman of the Kentish Town Traders Association, Nick Mavrides said: "You need to be in the borough day in and day out - not emailing from half way across the globe.
"We have serious problems here like knife crime, which is only solved by as many eyes and ears looking out for the community as possible. He has to get back, or get out."
Cllr Thompson ditched his licensing committee duties in a message given by colleagues at the Town Hall on Monday.
But no formal announcement was made about his whereabouts until the Ham& High discovered his location.
Labour group leader Cllr Anna Stewart, a Kentish Town resident, criticised the secrecy: "I think this poses real questions for the Lib Dem leadership. Why didn't they come clean about this? You don't just decide to go on a course at a moment's notice - he must have known about this well in advance."
Cllr Thompson's monthly surgeries, which allow residents to share their problems, are now being taken over by his two ward colleagues and he is now unavailable for site visits, community meetings and public events.
Other duties, such as his work as governor on Kentish Town Primary School, will also be in doubt.
The only legal requirement for a councillor is that he attends at least one full council meeting every six months.