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Barnet's kangaroo councillor stands ground

PUBLISHED: 11:02 15 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:29 07 September 2010

Barnet's kangaroo councillor will not be rushing home to defend his political position as he doesn't fancy the British winter weather. Barnet councillor Christopher Harris has now been expelled from the Conservative Party after it was reveale

Katie Davies

Barnet's kangaroo councillor will not be rushing home to defend his political position as he doesn't fancy the British winter weather.

Barnet councillor Christopher Harris has now been expelled from the Conservative Party after it was revealed he was living in Australia.

But despite living 10,000 miles away, Cllr Harris says he will not resign and has no plans to return soon.

Elected to serve Golders Green in 1998, he will now continue as an independent councillor for the ward.

And he will continue to claim his monthly allowance of more than £800 of taxpayers' money - which he has labelled a "piffling amount". In a letter to the Ham&High, he says he has no intention to stand in 2010 and is considering staying in Australia long-term for family reasons.

"I am still answering emails - if people want me I can still help them," he said. "I don't feel there is any problem. I don't see why I am not allowed to have an extended holiday.

"I have done more in 10 and a half years than a lot of councillors have.

"We are thinking long term about how much we like Australia and that is what the position is at the moment."

"I don't think we are going to come straight back as I hear the weather's getting colder in Britain," he laughed.

Last week, the Ham&High revealed Cllr Harris' absence - communicated through an out-of-office reply on his email. It stated he was away from July 21 on an extended holiday.

In his letter, he says: "Having served for over 11 years, my priority has to be to my young son.

"Having been made redundant this summer, when the credit crunch fatally impacted on the small charity I worked for, my wife and I decided to bring forward our long projected trip to Australia.

"We may well decide, on reflection, to extend our stay here. If we do so then I will of course act as is appropriate."

It was Cllr Harris's refusal to say whether or when he was planning to return that prompted Barnet Conservative leader and Finchley and Golders Green parliamentary candidate Mike Freer to expel him.

Mr Freer had earlier defended the councillor.

But he later said: "I was made aware that Cllr Harris was unable to give assurances on his date of return and he was unwilling to waive his allowances.

"I withdrew the whip from him an hour later. Consequently, he is no longer a Conservative councillor. This was the strongest response available to me."

But political opponents were incensed by Cllr Harris's decision to remain in Australia on full pay and said something had to be done.

Child's Hill Lib Dem councillor Jack Cohen, said: "It is an outrage. Eight hundred pound is a lot of money to a lot of people. A pensioner doesn't get that much. I think he should pay it back and there should be an investigation.

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