Mayor criticises new MEP for remaining as Cambridgeshire councillor

The new Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Lucy Nethsingha has said she will not try to retain her council seat in the election next year if she is still in the EU Parliament following criticism from Mayor James Palmer who challenged her to make clear her future intentions.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 9:36 am

The Conservative mayor criticised the MEP, pointing to the fact she led the campaign to remove Donald Adey from his council seat when he moved to Scotland.

The councillor for Newnham defended her decision to hold onto both roles, saying she would continue to represent her constituents “as well as I have ever done”. She also dismissed the comparison to former councillor Adey, saying she will continue to live in the area she now represents in the European Parliament.

And she insisted waiting on further clarity over her EU role “does not downgrade” her role as a councillor.

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Lucy Nethsingha

The mayor said: “A number of local councillors have questioned whether or not Cllr Nethsingha can continue serving as both a city councillor and a county councillor whilst serving as a Member of the European Parliament. My feeling is that legally there is nothing to prohibit this.

“However, on a practical level, I find it hard to believe that one can be an effective representative for the people of the East of England in both Brussels and Strasbourg whilst also being an attentive and effective local councillor on both the county council and city council.

“My understanding of being an MEP is that it’s very much a full time demanding role, especially at the moment. Therefore I can only assume that Cllr Nethsingha will be primarily based in Brussels. How can anyone do this whilst also be an effective city and county councillor in Cambridge?”

He added: “Cllr Nethsingha was very vocal in calling for former Cllr Adey to resign when he moved over 400 miles away to Scotland, therefore, I initially assumed that when it became clear to Cllr Nethsingha that her new principal place of work would be in Belgium she would be announcing her resignation as a councillor. From what I’ve heard, it very much looks like she intends on continuing as a councillor at both the city council and the county council whilst also serving as an MEP.

Mayor James Palmer

“Bearing in mind the importance of the elected positions that Cllr Nethsingha holds and the fact that she now appears to be receiving over £100,000 per year from the taxpayer I absolutely believe that we need clarity from her on what her plans are.”

Cllr Nethsingha responded by saying she made her position clear on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire in the immediate aftermath of the election result, stating she would continue as a councillor and MEP.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she still intends to continue as a councillor, but will not seek re-election next May if it is clear she will be continuing as an MEP.

She said that unlike Cllr Donald Adey she will still be living in the area: “I am not going to move, I am going to be here.”

When pushed on whether she is delaying the decision to sure up her future before giving up her council seat she said “there is an element of that,” but defended the move, saying “being a councillor is not normally considered to be a full-time job” and to the extent she had made it one she has drawn back by stepping down as the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council.

She also said that if her second source of income was not from a political role she would not be criticised for changing jobs.

“It is very unclear whether I will have any role in the European Parliament after October 31,” she said. “If there is further clarity on that then obviously I can make further decisions, but at the moment it is very hard to make long term decisions.”

But she clarified: “I will not stand as a councillor in May if I am still an MEP.”

She said she was “slightly surprised” the mayor had commented on her situation.

Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporting Service