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Golders Green councillor representing constituents from Australia

PUBLISHED: 18:40 08 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:29 07 September 2010

FIRST it was the cowboy councillor who moved to Arizona but still tried to keep his Camden Council post. Now we have the kangaroo councillor - up to the same tricks in Australia. Golders Green Tory Christopher Harris has been travelling Down Under since

FIRST it was the cowboy councillor who moved to Arizona but still tried to keep his Camden Council post.

Now we have the kangaroo councillor - up to the same tricks in Australia.

Golders Green Tory Christopher Harris has been travelling Down Under since July on an "extended holiday" but has still managed to hang on to his job.

Despite being 10,000 miles away in a country with a 10-hour time difference, Cllr Harris is still claiming more than £800 a month in a council allowance to serve residents.

The revelation follows the story of Cllr Philip Thompson, who last year was discovered by the Ham&High to be living 4,500 miles away from his Kentish Town constituency.

In the wake of public pressure, however, he stepped down and a by-election was called.

But Cllr Harris is being backed to stay in the job by party leader and council boss Mike Freer.

He said: "Golders Green ward is served by three councillors so residents have always had an elected representative on hand.

"Cllr Harris will have served the residents of Golders Green diligently for 12 years and continues to do so.

"He is expected to play a full part in his role as local councillor until he stands down at the next election."

But fellow councillors have branded Cllr Harris's trip on the taxpayers' purse "immoral".

Lib Dem Child's Hill councillor Jack Cohen said: "This is unacceptable.

"While Cllr Harris is waltzing matilda in the Outback, the rest of us are slogging away.

"How long have they known about this?"

Colleague Cllr Monroe Palmer added: "This is Barnet's version of duck houses and moats.

"I think it is immoral that someone is allowed to disappear and still pretend to be a councillor.

"It is also a perfect example of Barnet's EasyCouncil [the council plan to cut back services to basics like a no-frills airline].

"They are so easy that their councillors don't even need to be there."

Cllr Harris refused to comment this week.

But an out-of-office reply on his email gives no apology or suggested date of his return.

It states: "I am away from July 21, after 11 years serving the residents of Barnet, on an extended holiday in Australasia.

"If it is urgent either ring my mobile on 00 61 7949 592512 and please feel free to do so or I will pick up my emails remotely and deal with the issue or contact my ward colleagues Cllr.M.Cohen@Barnet.gov.uk or Cllr.D.Cohen@Barnet.gov.uk until I am back."

The telephone number, however, doesn't work.

Critics claim that Cllr Harris's Barnet superiors may have allowed his absence to stay unnoticed to avoid a by-election.

Cllr Palmer added: "Six months before the May elections, no by-elections are allowed to be called.

"A cynic could say the Conservatives were waiting until then so he would be able to resign without them needing to fight a by-election in Golders Green."

Following the publication of this article in today's Ham&High (Thursday October 8) the Conservative party announced their intention to remove the whip from Cllr Harris making him an independent councillor.

Cllr Freer said: "It is one thing to have an extended holiday, it is quite another to have an extended leave of absence. I have therefore withdrawn the whip from Cllr Harris. He will cease to be a Conservative Councillor from this evening."

Katie Davies

katie.davies@hamhigh.co.uk

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