AN SNP councillor elected in Fife has been accused of “disenfranchising” voters after he admitted spending most of his time in Austria.
Arthur Morrison is paid £16,234 by taxpayers but last year attended just seven out of 47 meetings of the committees on which he serves.
Yesterday, he acknowledged spending only one out of five weeks in Scotland and the facts that he does not hold surgeries and said he needs the salary to cover air fares to Austria, where he runs his own IT business.
Mr Morrison admitted it was “not a happy situation” for his constituents, while council colleagues attacked his record as “appalling”.
His “Fife Direct” web page gives a Kirkcaldy address and an Edinburgh telephone number for constituents to contact him.
Speaking from Austria last night, Mr Morrison said he thought Labour criticism was “hysterical”. But he admitted that his own party was “concerned” about his lengthy periods of absence from Fife after being elected in 2012.
Mr Morrison said: “I try to get back every four or five weeks – usually five. I tend to miss all the major meetings.
“My goal is to take work in Austria to Kirkcaldy and to try to create employment.
“I used to hold surgeries, but for the last year I haven’t. It’s difficult to get back for a short time with costs of £3,000 to £4,000. Most of my (council) salary goes on expenses to fly back to Kirkcaldy. The SNP are concerned. It’s not a happy situation and it tears me apart.”
Labour councillor Kay Carrington, who represents the same ward of Kirkcaldy East, said she had not seen Mr Morrison in more than two months. She said: “It’s appalling and it’s not fair for folk who voted for him.
“His absence is disenfranchising SNP supporters, who might only want to speak to a councillor from their party. He very rarely attends ward meetings for all the councillors in Kirkcaldy East and the last time I saw him was in June.”
Mr Morrison is a member of the council’s appeal sub-committee, the central area planning committee, Fife licensing board, the health and social care partnership and the Kirkcaldy area committee. He is also expected to attend meetings of the full council.
He attended just one of the 13 Kirkcaldy area committee meetings held since 1 April, a record which was “sparse to say the least”, said the Labour chairman of the body, Neil Crooks.
However, Mr Morrison will not face disciplinary action from Fife Council, after officials confirmed that councillors are only required by law to attend one meeting in a six-month period.
Linda Bissett, democratic services senior manager at Fife Council, said: “Councillor Morrison has met this requirement so we are not investigating the issue. Anyone who has a concern about the work of their local councillor should contact them directly.”
A spokesman for the SNP said: “The SNP expects and requires all its councillors to provide a high standard of service to their constituents. Any complaint will be investigated in accordance with SNP procedures.”