A COUNCILLOR, who splits her time between the Isle of Wight and Manchester, has been branded out of touch by a council colleague.

Member for Whippingham and Osborne, Cllr Julia Baker-Smith has been dubbed ‘Just Back from Salford’ in political circles, amid claims she is not spending enough time on the Isle of Wight.

However, Cllr Baker-Smith said ‘petty name-calling’ was not helpful, and she did not need to justify her whereabouts.

In the last year, Cllr Baker-Smith has missed two full council meetings and one meeting of the appeals sub committee.

The only Labour councillor, she also missed a planning meeting, due to having an MRI scan, where an application for a controversial development in her ward was decided.

Residents have criticised her absence, and said they do not feel represented.

Member for the adjoining ward, East Cowes, Cllr Karl Love said: “I suggest Cllr Baker-Smith steps up again or please can she step down.”

He said extra work had been put on him, and other councillors.

He said: “Cllr Baker-Smith has clearly made a life-changing move for herself and we wish her well in that.

“However, it also needs to be recognised Whippingham residents have a great need for close quarter representation at this time at Isle of Wight Council as the Medina Valley grows and significantly changes.”

During the recent planning meeting, Cllr Love had to read a prepared statement by Cllr Baker-Smith.

Cllr Baker-Smith said: “Cllr Love offered to step in to read my statement. Unfortunately he paraphrased and the content of the statement was lost. Had he not offered to help I would, as I have in the past, have rearranged the medical appointment, however I trusted he would do what he had offered to do.”

Cllr Love criticised her for the lack of progress to Saunders Way — a link road in her ward which has yet to be finished.

However, Cllr Baker-Smith said this was outside of her control.

She added: “I am being singled out among 40 councillors, some of whom spend months of the year on holiday or at their second homes abroad, some of whom also work on the mainland and some of whom have poor attendance records at council meetings.

“I do not feel I need to justify my whereabouts as I work hard for my residents and have a good attendance record.”

Island Labour chair, Julian Critchley, said: “Julia has been a capable and respected councillor in Whippingham for many years, and I have no doubt if Julia felt she couldn’t adequately represent the people of her ward, then she would resign.

“The Island Labour Party and Island residents expect the highest quality of representation from Labour councillors and we will raise Cllr Love’s comments with Cllr Baker-Smith during a long-standing meeting we have planned with her in advance of next week’s Full Council meeting.”