Local councillor living in Caribbean causes outcry

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The Independent Online

A local councillor in one of Britain's most deprived wards has provoked an outcry after it emerged that he is serving his constituents while living on a Caribbean island.

A local councillor in one of Britain's most deprived wards has provoked an outcry after it emerged that he is serving his constituents while living on a Caribbean island.

People who need help have to write or phone Stephen Gregory at his home 4,500 miles away in the Dominican Republic. The Wear Valley district councillor has been living there since January, returning occasionally to the UK.

He plans to fly back later this month, which will entitle him to pick up his £4,500 annual councillor's allowance. He defended his decision to remain on the council, insisting he could still do a good job.

Speaking from the Dominican Republic, Mr Gregory, who is married with children, said: "I don't intend to resign. I'm still doing my council duties and it is important work to me. I try and time my trips back to the UK to suit council business. People can e-mail me or call ... And there are still other councillors in the ward."

He must attend at least one meeting every six months and have an address in the district to keep his position. Mr Gregory used to run a butcher's business that became a bakery. Although he has sold the business in Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, which still carries his name, he has retained the property.

Mr Gregory was asked to attend eight meetings between May and August this year. He has attended just one. Olive Brown, leader of Wear Valley District Council, said: "People elected him to do a job he isn't doing. I don't think the people of Bishop Auckland are getting fair representation."

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