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'Kangaroo' councillor quits Barnet

PUBLISHED: 11:34 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 07 September 2010

Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris

BARNET'S kangaroo councillor, who the Ham&High revealed had moved to Australia despite his role as elected representative of Golders Green and the £800 monthly salary that goes with it, has stepped down. Six months after embarking on what he

Katie Davies

BARNET'S kangaroo councillor, who the Ham&High revealed had moved to Australia despite his role as elected representative of Golders Green and the £800 monthly salary that goes with it, has stepped down.

Six months after embarking on what he dubbed an "extended holiday" and after pocketing more than £4,000 of taxpayers money, Cllr Christopher Harris has quietly resigned.

The Ham&High was the first to reveal in October that the councillor had been travelling around Australia since July, collecting his council pay cheque and only officially notifying residents in an Out of Office reply on his email.

A Barnet Council spokesman said: "Christopher Harris has resigned. As there are less than six months until the next election there will be no by-election. He made no statement about his resignation."

Election rules stipulate by-elections cannot take place within six months of borough-wide council elections which are due in Barnet in May this year.

If Cllr Harris had stepped down following the Ham&High report, however, one could have been held.

That month members of the local Conservative party repeatedly denied that they knew Cllr Harris was planning more than a short vacation over the summer recess.

The party initially supported Mr Harris continuing his role from 10,000 miles away but later removed the whip from him - expelling him from the group.

The then council and party leader Mike Freer and conservative parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green spoke to the Ham&High following the resignation.

He said: "As soon as I was told Christopher Harris hadn't come back off his holiday and had no plans to return, he was removed from the group. If someone says to me, 'Do you mind if I go to Australia for three weeks in the summer when the council is closing down', fine.

"And if someone hasn't got meetings it is hard to know. There are 37 Conservative councillors and they haven't got ankle tags on. But as soon as it was brought to my attention he had no intention of returning or couldn't give a guarantee, we withdrew the whip from him.

"The decision [about whether he should have stepped down from the council immediately] was entirely Christopher Harris' decision."

Opposition politicians this week hit out at the party saying they should have taken a harder line on the councillor and forced him to stand down once his jaunt was revealed.

Liberal Democrat leader and Child's Hill councillor Jack Cohen said: "I am pleased he has finally done the decent thing. It was quite clear he wasn't coming back and I suggest he repays all the allowances he earned while out of the country.

"A lot of residents were very angry at what happened. The Conservative Party should have been putting pressure on him to step down to allow someone else in who was in London and wanted to work for the area. Mike Freer's repeated excuse is 'I didn't know it was going on'.

"Now at least Christopher Harris will carry on waltzing matilda at his own expense."

Speaking to the Ham&High after our report last year Cllr Harris initially dismissed complaints saying his expenses were a "piffling amount" and he could still help residents via email.

He later released a statement saying the move came because he was prioritising his young son and had been made redundant from his full-time job.

He was unavailable for comment when the Ham&High tried to reach him this week.


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