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There have been several threads on the 6 months rule and several  points clarified,  There has been much emphasis on apologies or reasons for absence   being accepted.  Can I be clear how is "accepted" defined .  Is any reason only conclusively accepted if it is recorded in the minutes i.e.  the full details (name and reason) .

I also understand that as things stand no exceptions are allowable due to Covid (unless a policy has been made)
by (4.7k points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
The six-month rule is contained in Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 and states:

85 Vacation of office by failure to attend meetings.
(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) below, if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of six consecutive months from the date of his last attendance to attend any meeting of the authority, he shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period, cease to be a member of the authority.

Approval by the authority is deemed to require debate, resolution, vote and record in the minutes. Councils do not have to approve and MrsAbster has mentioned previously that her council has a policy of no approvals.

The reason for the exemption is to deal with issues such as temporary incapacity, for example, medical issues, but it is frequently abused, particularly in higher authorities, where a paid member may emigrate to France, but complete a four-year term of office by popping back on Eurostar to attend two meetings each year.

A number of local councils simply closed down when Covid came and allowed either their Chair or Clerk to run everything, leading to disqualification.
by (52.9k points)
What should happen is this which would put this to bed. At the head of each agenda is a section of In Attendance and Apologies received: Here the clerk will list those at the meeting and those who have tendered their apologies for not attending. The clerk should log the reasons given for non attendance of a councillor. Each reason should then be voted on for acceptance or refusal by the council and minuted as such. If accepted by council it does not go to the six month rule if not then it does. The councillors attendance then becomes a matter of record in the minutes and can be referred back to at any time
In my experience not many councils do that and to be honest, a series of excuses like not attending because hungover isn't exactly flattering!  Where there's just the occasional absence, a reason and approval isn't really necessary but for persistent absence, I have to question why someone is a councillor at all.  We're there to do a job, not just get the title.  My council recently approved an absence from someone who hasn't attended for some while due to illness where we might not have done if someone simply didn't turn up for months on end.
Until May this year, government temporary regulations enabled remote meetings to count as attendance which avoided the six months rule but this wasn't practical for some councillors or councils where internet access wasn't available and I know several lost their seats as a result.
As stated this voting acceptance of apology would A) record the reason given & B) thereby making the lame or false reasons open and transparent to the electorate a matter of record.
C) record whether the council accepts, rejects, or wishes to question or investigate  the reason for non-attendance
D) provides a definitive, trackable record of councillors attendance ( and non-attendance) on which to base any actions taken by council.

As such councils should adopt it to ensure they meet their duty of care in managing the power to remove a democratically elected member of the council
"...wishes to question or investigate..."? That might be taking matters a bit far. A letter from the Clerk along the lines of "Dear Councillor Biggins, your fellow councillors think you're a liar" perhaps?

If one of my councillors submitted an apology on the grounds of being hungover or similar, I would report that to the meeting as "No explanation offered" to protect the reputation of the council and its members then have a private conversation with the individual about their role and responsibilities as an elected leader of their community.
Hi Dave, with respect for your experience and position I would submit that it is not your job as clerk to "cover up" for such a councillors submission on such an important issue as apologies for not attending their summons to attend. It is the responsibility of councillors to uphold the integrity ( thereby their reputation) of the council and it is for the clerk to advise the legal aspects of such actions. I agree that the clerk should advise councillors that only acceptable reasons for non attendance will be accepted at council and therefore councillors must think long and hard as to the veracity of such statements they make.
It seems that at the moment giving apologies is treated as a "by the by" and not really important- I would submit that it is in fact very important as it is almost the only power ultimately, a PC has to remove a democratically elected member and as such needs to be treated with the gravity it carries as it is open to manipulation ( without recording fully) by those who wish to abuse that power for other purposes..
We could debate this point forever. There is no black and white here. In the wider employment context, any employee of any organisation has a moral responsibility to protect and enhance the reputation of their employer. A similar situation arises in the recording of the minutes of a meeting. The Clerk must decide what is included and, by implication, what is not. On planning applications for example, members may list a number of reasons for objection, some of which are not valid planning considerations or fall outside the remit of the council. I will advise them of that fact and omit those issues from the record of objections, usually adding them as a note of concern.
I have a parish councillor who has failed to attend for six months how do we request his removal?
It is not just purely a matter of not attending but whether their non attendance reason was accepted by the council. If they had not attended for six months because of being in an induced coma is different from just not giving any apologies for not attending without reason.
As Mentorman has stated, you need to check the minutes of every meeting since he last attended. If the minutes state the Council has accepted or approved (or any other positive wording) his apology for failing to attend, then the six-month rule doesn't apply. If, on the other hand, he didn't submit apologies, or if the apologies were noted but not approved, after six months the Clerk should write to the councillor and inform him that he has vacated his office in accordance with Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972. The Clerk should also notify the principal authority so that they may start the process of advertising the vacancy.
I’m confused his apologies have been there but he hasn’t attended any meetings. There is no talk of long term absence anywhere
If the councillor has tendered his apologies and the reason given is accepted by the council then the 6 month rule cannot be invoked. This is why at the beginning of the meeting the chair should state apologies given by non attending councillors( provided by the clerk) and call for acceptance or rejection from the council ( show of hands would be sufficient) and the results placed in the minutes for adoption at the next council meeting.
To add to Mentorman's advice, when a Councillor sends his or her apologies, they must also give a reason for their absence. The Council must then decide whether or not the reason for absence is acceptable. There should be a vote on this. If the Council votes to accept the reason, the Clerk should record the decision like any other in the minutes. A Councillor who has submitted a reason deemed acceptable by the majority of Councillors is not subject to the six-month rule at that time.

If no reason is submitted, or the Council rejects the reason, or no vote is taken and recorded in the minutes, the six-month rule applies from the date of their last attendance or last accepted and minuted apology, whichever is the later.
Thank you for that answer. That’s what I’d thought. My Parish Council is a shambles, the last meeting was on the 18th of November and still no draft minutes. I’m having to spend my nights learning and preparing for the next meeting so I can lawfully get my points across

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