Calls have been made for a town councillor to consider resigning “immediately”, after it was publicised he had started university.

Shaftesbury Town Councillor Matthew Welch was not present in last week’s full council meeting via Zoom as he is currently on compassionate leave.

It was flagged by councillors however that he has started a four-year course at Bristol University.

After receiving formal apologies from Cllr Welch for not attending, during the meeting Cllr Karen Tippins said this should not be accepted, and she put forward a recommendation that he should consider resigning “immediately”, because of his full time education away from the town.

Cllr Piers Brown said that members should have “a little bit of sympathy”.

In response to Cllr Tippins’ recommendation, supported by Cllr Peter Yeo, Cllr Brown said: [Cllr Welch] is currently on compassionate leave and I would just ask for a little bit of sympathy from Cllrs Yeo and Tippins for his current situation.

“He has proven himself to be a fantastic councillor but he needs to take this time [for] compassionate leave.”

Cllr Tippins later said: “There is an open and transparency requirement, when people have a leave of absence it’s best practice to say the reason.

“If the reason is ‘gone to university’ that needs to be open and transparent. The town clerk must document that. He’s asked for a three-months leave, that’s outrageous.”

Responding to Cllr Tippins’ comments, Cllr Alex Chase, who was chairing the meeting on September 29, said: “If you don’t listen how [will you] learn.”

“This is disgraceful,” Cllr Tippins added.

Cllr Chase continued: “So the reason Cllr Welch has requested a leave of absence is on compassionate grounds, it is not because he has gone to university.

“He will be joining us at meetings via Zoom, as the rest of us are doing, while he is at university.

“He will be able to take a full and free part in council meetings and in council work and I am looking forward to working with him while he is there and while he is here.”

Putting Cllr Tippins’ proposal to a vote, the motion was backed by herself and Cllr Yeo only, with Cllr Jeanne Loader abstaining.

During the vote Cllr Yeo commented: “It’s not compassionate he’s gone to uni for three years.”

As a result Cllr Welch’s absence from the meeting was accepted.

Cllr Welch has been asked to comment, to find out how he will continue his duties as a council member while studying outside of Shaftesbury.