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Cycling champion and councillor defends move to Oxford
A Conservative councillor who moved to Oxford but remained a representative in Richmond has defended her decision not to stand down.
Councillor Katharine Harborne will give up her Richmond post at the next election and will stand to be a councillor in Oxford, where she moved last summer – according to a post she submitted on a social networking website.
She remains a councillor for the North Richmond ward and commutes from Oxford to Richmond to attend meetings and chair the cycling liaison group as the borough’s cycling champion.
She said: “I am commuting between the two. It is actually very hard but I am doing my best and carrying on being a councillor.
“There has actually been a campaign to get me to stay.
“To have a by-election would be a massive cost to the Richmond taxpayer so instead of adding that huge cost I am carrying on and commuting so I think I am being very responsible.”
A by-election cannot be triggered with less than six months left in the term of office.
The Tory councillor moved to Oxford last year so her daughter could study for her A-levels there.
She worked to get the North Sheen footbridge in place and is trying to secure Government funding for cycling in the borough.
She said: “I really want to see that through, so why would I stand down when I have been working so hard on that?
“I am doing my absolute best to represent Richmond residents.
“I put in way more work than the majority of councillors do. I am one of the most active councillors and it’s because I enjoy doing it and care about local people.”
In May 2012, Liberal Democrats lost the north Richmond seat by 150 votes in the wake of a fake leaflet stunt, which was investigated by police at the time.
The leaflet claimed to be from the Lib Dems and showed support for controversial projects in the area, but no one was ever prosecuted.
Critics said a by-election may have been avoided for fear of losing the volatile seat to the Lib Dems.
Leader of the Lib Dems in Richmond Councillor Stephen Knight said: “People, well councillors, are entitled to move away but when they do so if they are not living within commuting distance they really need to stand down and start a by-election."
Richmond Council said a by-election in the north Richmond ward would cost between £10,000 and £15,000, but this could not be triggered within six months of a local election.
Councillor Geoffrey Samuel, deputy leader of the council, said: “In the short-term it works perfectly well.
“In this day and age virtually all aspects of being a councillor is done by email and the number of meetings has decreased.
“She has decided the move towards the end of her time as a councillor and has decided not to stand again which is the honourable thing to do.”