Norfolk-based Tunbridge Wells councillor will not stand down at elections

Pam Mills

He lives 160 miles away in North Norfolk but despite this fact a Tunbridge Wells councillor has rejected calls from within his party to step down.

Cllr Peter Bulman will not surrender his Park ward seat in May’s Borough Council elections and could now continue to pick up his £5,500-a-year allowance until at least mid-2019 or force an expensive by-election.
He opposes the planned Civic Complex.

Although Cll Bulman is not breaking any rules there is a strong feeling amongst his Tory colleagues that what he is doing is ‘morally wrong’.

He was re-elected in 2016 and moved to Holt, around three hours’ drive from the ward he represents, in September last year.

Although his term does not end until 2020, Cllr Bulman previously told the Times he would stand down at a convenient time before then.

But last week he said this will not be in the election on May 3, despite a plea to stand aside from fellow Tory Councillor Catherine Rankin who also represents Park ward.

“I will be looking to continue for a while at least, [when I step down] depends on a number of factors,” Cllr Bulman said last week.

“Despite the fact I am not a resident, I can fulfil my obligations to my constituents.
“There is the Civic Complex and theatre that I am not happy about. I have received so many complaints from residents that I feel it is important to [stay on and] represent them.”

On when he could step aside, he said: “I am not going to commit at this stage but I would not intend to do a full time of office.

“I will resign at the time that is convenient to the party. I do not want to stand down at a time when there is not otherwise an election to be held.”

Cllr Bulman said that he visits Tunbridge Wells several times a month and pays travel expenses.
He added: “I feel I have effectively been able to deal with concerns by email and phone.

“But I don’t think it matters where the person is living. It matters more about the quality of person.
“I think there can be little doubt that I represent my constituents to the best of my abilities.”

Cllr Rankin, who lives in Park ward, feels Cllr Bulman should step aside in May.

“A councillor is best placed to serve their residents when they are living in the area,” she said. We need to support residents and address their concerns and I don’t think it can all be done by email.

“He may continue for another year, but I feel that is a year where he is not serving residents as efficiently as he could do.”

Council Leader David Jukes also urged his Tory colleague to step down.

“He is not giving the people he represents the sort of attention they deserve,” said Cllr Jukes.

“I would say to him, move on before the elections in May. A by-election can cost £5,000 to hold.”

If he does not step down this week the next time Cllr Bulman could resign without causing a stand-alone election, that would cost the council around £5,000, is in May 2019 when there are more borough elections scheduled.

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