Councillor quits over ‘humiliation of wife’

Graham Liverton has been a Sidmouth town councillor for 30 years

Graham Liverton has been a Sidmouth town councillor for 30 years - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth’s longest-serving town councillor has resigned after 30 years’ service because he found it ‘impossible’ to deal with colleagues who ‘publicly humiliated’ his wife.

Graham Liverton’s spouse Ann was denied the honour of being made a freeman as some of her former colleagues feared it could be seen as a political act.

Described as the ‘father of the council’, Mr Liverton made the decision to step down ‘with a heavy heart’ this week and said: “This is never how I thought I would leave.”

“After 30 years it’s painful, but I had to do it,” said the Sidmothian, who won 640 West Ward votes in May’s elections.

“It’s impossible to work with people who have such a low opinion of my wife, who has done so much for this town.

“They humiliated her in public. I know people are sorry, but it’s too late.

“I can’t afford to waste any more time hitting my head against a brick wall.”

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Sidmouth Town Council this month held an extraordinary meeting to vote on whether to confer the title of freeman on Mrs Liverton.

Proposing her for the honour, Councillor David Addis cited her varied charity work over more than 40 years. She was also a public servant for 23 years. But Mrs Liverton is also a card-carrying Conservative, and Cllr Kelvin Dent raised concerns that the award could be seen as a political act outside of the council chamber. A secret vote was taken and failed to reach the two-thirds majority to confer the title of freeman.

“I wish the council well and those on it, but somehow I think party politics has been brought into it,” said Mr Liverton, who also previously served as a district councillor for 21 years.

“We have always been steadfastly against it. I didn’t bring in party politics – I left my political aspirations at East Devon District Council.

“This is never how I thought I would leave the council. I thought I would do one more term and then retire.

“I have a great affection for the council. It’s with a heavy heart that I resign.”

He said his decision had nothing to do with Mrs Liverton losing her seat at May’s elections as they had regularly disagreed in the council chamber – and with their Tory counterparts at district and county council levels.

Mr Liverton spent 28 years at Knights of Sidmouth and now works at Otter Nurseries.

He stepped down from the council with immediate effect on Monday. The decision will be formalised at a full council meeting August 10.

? Town council chairman Jeff Turner has spoken of his regret over Mr Liverton’s decision. See page five.

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