Councillor Sara Cliff resigns after attendance criticism

image captionSara Cliff attended 19 out of 52 possible meetings

A Lincolnshire county councillor who lives in Cambridgeshire has resigned following criticism about her attendance record.

Sara Cliff came under scrutiny when it was reported she had claimed £23,000 in allowances despite attending 19 meetings from a possible 52.

In a statement, she explained she was seriously ill for six months in 2010 which had affected her attendance.

She blamed "hostility in the press" for her decision not to continue.

Conservative Ms Cliff represented Lincoln East ward on Lincolnshire County Council. The ward includes the deprived Monks Road and Tower Estate areas.

She was elected in May 2009 but moved to Soham, Cambridgeshire, last July in her role as a Methodist minister.

Ms Cliff said: "I do feel that I have been misrepresented in the media and people will not be aware that I was seriously ill for six months in 2010 which impacted on the attendance record as reported.

"However, while I did feel willing and able to carry on representing the people of Lincoln East, in view of the unwarranted hostility in the press, I am clear that this action is in the best interests of the Methodist church, the county council and my own family."

'Concerns from clerk'

The story was first reported in the Lincolnshire Echo before being reported by several national newspapers.

Lincolnshire Echo editor Steven Fletcher said: "Every statistic about Ms Cliff's attendance came directly from Lincolnshire County Council.

"The council leader himself said Ms Cliff's attendance in 2011 had 'not been good'.

"Her lack of attendance was originally flagged up to the Echo by the people living in her council ward.

"Even the county council's own clerk had raised concerns about her attendance."

A spokesperson for Lincolnshire County Council said Ms Cliff had attended meetings of the council's adoption panel, which were not included in the figures.

Councillor Marianne Overton, leader of the Lincolnshire Independents and the shadow cabinet at the county council, said Ms Cliff's decision to leave had been right.

"If she doesn't reside in the area and doesn't occupy any premises in the area it does bring into question whether she fulfils the qualifications required to be a councillor at all," she said.

"She has now made way for a member of the local community who is genuinely committed to standing up for their communities."

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