Mayor defends tragedy hit councillor's trip
MAYOR Gordon Oliver has defended one of his top Tory councillors for spending six weeks in Australia after she suffered a double tragedy in her family.
Comments were made about Cllr Christine Scouler's absence during important budget meetings which will see Torbay Council make £10million in cuts next year.
Cllr Scouler was criticised for being on holiday when she is the executive lead for adult social care and older people, a department with a £40million budget, which is already overspent and is set to lose £2.1million next year.
In an email to the Herald Express, Labour councillor Darren Cowell said: "In view of the absence of Cllr Scouler, could someone please confirm who will be deputising for her and answering for the £40million plus budget she is responsible for?"
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However, it was revealed during an overview and scrutiny committee that Cllr Scouler is spending some time with her daughter who lives in Australia after being hit by a double family tragedy. She lost her son and her brother in quick succession over the festive period.
Mayor Oliver defended her spending time with her family at this difficult time.
In a passionate defence of his top job councillor, he told the meeting: "Cllr Scouler lost her son and her brother in short succession. Her daughter lives in Australia and she is spending time with her at this difficult time. For most of us, there is a life outside this council. Many members have relatives in other parts of the world.
"My own son lives in New Zealand and I only see him every three years."
Deputy mayor Dave Thomas said: "Christmas is the time for family. You can't just go to Australia for a long weekend or a week.
"When on top of that you take into account her personal circumstances, no-one will object to her spending time with her family."
Cllr Steve Darling said Gordon Oliver should have seconded another member to the role
Cllr Cowell said an announcement should have been made about Cllr Scouler's family issues.
He said: "If she had stepped back to deal with her family tragedy, that would have been fine. Everyone would have felt a lot of sympathy for her, but it just looks like she's off on a jolly for six weeks when her work could have been delegated to someone else. It is her budget."