A COUNCILLOR who spent months in his French holiday home at the start of the pandemic has been accused of abandoning the city amid rising Covid cases - after it was claimed he has returned to the country.

Husband and wife councillors Tom Druitt and Alex Phillips faced criticism after travelling to France at the start of the first lockdown and The Argus has been told that he is there once again.

Residents are outraged over his reported trip to France, which comes at a time when Covid is spreading rapidly through the city, with the UK recording the highest numbers of cases since the start of the pandemic.

Cllr Druitt, chief executive of The Big Lemon bus company, has been unavailable for comment on the matter but when The Argus contacted his business we were told "he is in France at the moment" and it is not known when he will return.

A spokesman for the Friends of Brighton and Hove Citizens Action Group called on the councillor to resign after apparently leaving the city amid the rise of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which is expected to result in further restrictions before the end of the year.

He said: "It is unbelievable that the same councillor has gone off to France again in the face of the current situation with the Omicron variant crisis. Did he learn nothing the last time?

"Obviously it is something he cares so little about as he has once more abandoned the citizens and businesses in Brighton and Hove with Covid cases on the rise."

At the start of this month, The Argus reported how Cllr Druitt decided to travel to the French Alps to visit friends during the early stages of the pandemic, claiming that Covid "was still very much a Chinese problem" at the time.

After travelling to France at the start of March 2020, Cllr Druitt and Cllr Phillips ended up staying at their holiday home for a number of months, attending meetings virtually before eventually returning to Brighton in July the same year.

It is not known when Cllr Druitt went back to France. The Regency ward representative failed to respond to a number of messages from The Argus.

His latest trip comes amid fear over the spread of Omicron, labelled a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation on November 26.

The rise of the Omicron variant led to Green administration cancelling the year's final meeting of full council on December 16 - with councillors now calling on the government to reintroduce virtual meetings.

Cllr Druitt's trip to France also comes as Emmanuel Macron's government introduced new restrictions for all UK travellers coming into the country, regardless of vaccination status.

Since December 18, British residents are only allowed to enter France for essential reasons, not including tourism or business travel, present a negative Covid test result 24 hours prior to departure, and self-isolate upon arrival in the place of their choosing.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that ministers "can't rule out" any further measures after December 25, with Omicron spreading at a speed never seen before.

When The Argus contacted The Big Lemon, a spokesman said it was not possible to speak to Cllr Druitt, adding: "He is in France at the moment".

When we asked the spokesman when Cllr Druitt would be returning, he said: "I personally don't know".

Cllr Druitt has been approached for comment but we have yet to hear back from him.

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