A COUNCILLOR who has been representing residents from Spain has received the support of his colleagues.

But many of his constituents in the Parks ward have never even heard of him.

As reported in Saturday's Adver, Labour councillor Barrie Thompson has been in Spain since the beginning of January and has not attended a council meeting since July.

He has been suffering from ill health and went to Spain, where his son is already living, to recuperate.

But he told the Adver he had no intention of paying back any of his council expenses amounting to £7,429.

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove said: "I'm very sorry that Barrie has had to resign but I know that he has been very ill and he has made a decision based on that.

"I strongly resent the implication that he is on holiday in Spain.

"He is not on holiday, he is recuperating.

"Barrie has given many years of service to Swindon, and so has his wife Lynn.

"I'm sure that had he been aware of how long-lasting his period of illness would be he would have stepped down long ago. It's not unusual that a councillor becomes ill and it's not unusual that a councillor misses some meetings."

Conservative parliamentary candidate Robert Buckland has called for a by-election in the ward, but Mrs Snelgrove disagrees - even though Coun Thompson says he won't be returning to Swindon until May.

Mrs Snelgrove said: "I was in Parks yesterday, with Fay Howard, and we found that the people we spoke to were very sympathetic about Barrie, once they found out what the situation was."

But the Adver found residents have little sympathy with Coun Thompson's situation.

Joseph Tyndall, 66, said: "I don't think he should get his money if he's not here to represent the people who elected him."

Maria Alaybeyi, a 41-year-old nurse, agreed.

She said: "What about all the elderly people around here who are ill? I'm sure they'd love to go off to Spain and get a bit of sun.

"If they can't do it why should he be able to?"

Katherine Stratford, 46, said the councillor's behaviour was disgraceful.

"If most people didn't turn up for their job for that long they'd be sacked," she said.

"He should have been replaced straight away, if he was too ill to work."

Ronald Coate, a 60-year-old shop owner, said: "If I was ill I couldn't just go off to Spain until I felt better and still get paid.

"I'd have to be here at work, and if I couldn't go to work I wouldn't expect to get paid."

Coun Thompson's fellow ward councillor Fay Howard said the criticism of Coun Thompson was unfair.

She said: "Barry has been unwell for some time but has continued to be a conscientious councillor.

"It's only since last autumn that he's been unable to attend council meetings, and we have been in regular contact about council business.

"I don't think a by-election would be a good use of council funds and it would be better to wait until May."