French leave? Not us! Brighton councillor scotches rumours about living abroad

Rumours that two councillors have moved abroad were labelled false as members of the public put questions to the council.

Green councillors Tom Druitt and Alex Phillips were not named in the questions, asked yesterday at Brighton Town Hall (Thursday 22 October).

But the couple, who have two young children, were the subject of two questions about their wealth and where they lived at a meeting of the full council.

Afterwards, one of them spoke out to try to scotch the rumours that have surfaced in recent months that they had left Brighton and moved to a second home in France.

The rumours started when they were caught by the lockdowns that were imposed at home and abroad in March last year.

The couple were spending a week on holiday with friends in France, unable to travel home.

Council meetings switched to online-only and both continued to take part remotely – like their colleagues – before and after their return to their Brighton home.

Councillor Phillips also faced criticism for claiming childcare expenses for their young son for the past two years, including during her year as mayor in 2019-20.

For her mayoral year, she claimed £1,788 “dependents allowance”, or about £34 a week, and last year £1,458.

Councillor Phillips also spent seven months as a Green MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for South East England in 2019 and works as campaign manager for Big Issue founder Lord Bird.

During public questions at the council meeting yesterday, resident Laura King asked: “Given that various national allowance systems, such as child benefit, are means-tested to ensure that the wealthiest in society are not eligible to claim, can the leader of the council give examples of similar systems within the council whereby wealth is taken into account when pay-outs are made?

“Is it appropriate for councillors to claim money to be spent on babysitting or au pairs?”

She also asked if it was “appropriate for two of the wealthiest councillors” in the Green administration to claim for a live-in nanny during covid-19 while resident in France.

Councillor Tom Druitt with Councillor Alex Phillips and their son when she was mayor

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that the allowances were adopted based on the recommendation of an independent remuneration panel.

To applause across the chamber, he said: “You should be able to claim carer allowance for being a parent.

“That is something we should be proud of and do more of because long should be banished the days of councillors just being old men.”

Another resident Andy Maclay asked if Councillor Mac Cafferty agreed that councillors should live in the area they represented.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that the rules for those standing and holding the office of councillor were controlled by the Local Government Act 1972.

He said that most councillors lived within the borders of Brighton and Hove.

Councillor Alex Phillips with her son in the mayor’s seat at Brighton Town Hall

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that at the start of the pandemic, during the lockdown, some councillors were stranded outside Brighton and Hove, a situation that affected many people around the world.

Councillor Druitt, the founder and managing director of the Big Lemon Community Interest Company (CIC), responded to the allegations outside of the meeting.

The bus company boss said: “There have been a couple of quite ridiculous assertions made during public questions this evening concerning me and my family.

“I have no idea how wealthy I am compared with colleagues – and I don’t care.

“In 2010-11, I lived in a bus for 18 months because I couldn’t afford housing in the city.

“I am committed to more equality and better living standards for everyone – and all businesses I am involved in pay the Brighton Living Wage.

Tom Druitt with one of his Big Lemon buses

He said that he lived in Brighton and added: “We went on holiday to France in March 2020 to visit a good friend from Brighton who now lives there.

“It was supposed to be a five-day break but, while we were there, France locked down – and two weeks later the UK locked down.

“It was both impossible and illegal to make the trip back and we came home as soon as both countries’ rules allowed it and travel between two countries resumed.”

  1. Mike Beasley Reply

    Sorry Tom.The Greens have made it very hard for themselves. They now have a reputation for being economical with the truth. Quel dommage as they say chez Druitt

  2. GE Keys Reply

    Listen back to MacCafferty’s reply in full council meeting. He does not deny the Druitts are living in France. Rather he reels off a list of excuses why they don’t have to live here! Last month there is a telling article in the Argus where Councillor Tom Druitt tried to claim that Brighton and Hove city is the best it’s ever been, going on to claim he lives here! Interesting comments among the 200+ below this article. Some whistleblowing amid the mocking. This story is not over. Also, if he was in meeting why did he let McCafferty speak for him rather than jumping in and saying ‘I’ll answer this one if I may’

  3. Greens Out Reply

    It wasn’t ‘illegal’ to return to your home country when lockdown happened. Greens lying. Again. What a surprise

  4. Gary Gibbon Reply

    Troughs and snouts.

  5. Tina Reply

    People should take note that the person who asked the question is well known on local Facebook groups as a conspiracy theorist who believes the earth is flat and that Covid doesn’t exist. So it stands to reason she is making up more nonsense.

    • Chaz. Reply

      Oh Amy you have outdone yourself with your attempt at deflection.
      Sorry, but it doesn’t work.

  6. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    What’s her name, Tina?

  7. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    Yes, Chaz. Amy had, and has never had, any answers to anything at all, except to blame Labour for unspecified policies. Would suggest that, if she were even half a per cent competent, which she isn’t, she has been in charge of the relevant committee for long enough now to have some sort of cogent answers to things, except blaming Labour. Also, she blathered on about updating members re the parking permit fiasco, but this tablet from the mount has not reached the public and, as far as I can tell, no members of any persuasion have communicated whatever this revelation was to the public.

  8. Matt Regency Reply

    Quelle surprise!

    And Mrs Druitt a trained French teacher who studied in France and former MEP. Not exactly tough for them to rough it in France!

    But if they are ‘scotching’ rumours, is that a hint we should now be looking to Scotland for their new prime residence?

  9. Narinda Sunyata Reply

    Between the Tory rumour mill of lies, disinformation and personal attacks, and the GMB dirty tricks department run by Progress faction aligned Labour members, I think I’d personally choose a couple of councillors who seem to be dedicated to both saving our children’s future, keeping an MP who actually questions the one party state and it’s green washed austerity, along with running a local business that provides a bus service that not only pioneered electric/solar transport but provides it to my family for free as parent-carers- that’s real commitment to principles in action for those all too often completely abandoned or worse attacked by both main parties especially in these current times.

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