Dave Ward intends to stay on as chair of borough planning committee
Cllr Dave Ward
A Merton councillor has defended his move to Italy around 1,000 miles away from the Colliers Wood ward he represents.
Councillor Dave Ward has bought a house in Palata in the Molise region and moved in four days ago on (26 July).
But the Labour councillor denies he has moved permanently – as he does not plan to stand in next year’s May elections – and will make the full move after they take place in May.
Cllr Ward is also chair of Merton’s planning committee and says he will fly back for the next meeting on 19 August . The following meeting will be held on 23 September. He has held the post since December.
The politician has not hidden his move away to Italy from the public eye, and has been sharing photos from his journey since 22 July on Twitter, where he documented the drive from London with his partner and two dogs, Ringo and Star.
In a tweet from 27 July, he posted a photo of his the view from his new Italian balcony, complete with glass of red wine, and wrote: “We have moved in. Basics (wine and somewhere to sleep) are done. The rest of the unpacking tomorrow. M has (of course) introduced us to all of the neighbours.
“Our nearest neighbour has ‘Nessun Dorma’ as the ring tone on her phone. Definitely in Italy!”
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service from Province of Campobasso, Cllr Ward said, “I am planning to come back for the planning committee on 19 August, I am away for three weeks that is a summer holiday. Everyone is allowed a summer holiday.
“I have bought a property but I am not going to move in permanently until next year.”
Cllr Ward says he told his Labour colleagues about the move about two months ago and he still has his house in Colliers Wood for when he returns for meetings.
The councillor also has a home in Kosovo which he bought in August 2020 and spends some time in.
In response to a resident on Twitter asking how he can fulfil his ward duties, Cllr Ward said, “There’s this thing called the Internet. For about a year of full lock down, we all managed very well indeed working from home.”
And he said he would attend a Colliers Wood resident’s association meeting remotely as it is taking place online.
Conservative councillor David Dean is also a member of the planning committee, he thinks the job would be difficult to do without being in the country full time.
He said, “The planning committee is probably the hardest task at the council, each month you should be reading 2,000 to 3,000 documents.
“The job is a physical one where you are walking round visiting the sites and talking to people.
“I wouldn’t think that someone who isn’t living in the borough full time can do the job, I don’t think someone not living here full time should be in one of the most important jobs in the council.”
His thoughts were echoed by the leader of the Merton Liberal Democrats, Anthony Fairclough.
The Dundonald ward councillor said, “It’s for Cllr Ward to decide if he thinks it’s appropriate to stay chair of the planning committee – with a huge say over development locally – as he makes a new life for himself abroad.
“But I suspect voters may feel differently and punish Labour at the next elections. It creates a sense that their councillors are massively out of touch if they’re voting through unpopular applications when the chair lives hundreds of miles away, in another country.”
Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
July 29, 2021