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agreed to cancel council meetings until further notice, is this a dispensation ?during covid 19 2020

0 votes
In March 2020during Covid it was agreed to cancel all council meetings until further notice. after 6 months the clerk had 13 councilors disqualified ( 1972 act) surly canceling all meetings until further notice is a dispensation, answers welcome, please.
by (160 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
Further information please  Did the clerk issue a summons to attend at least one meeting virtually?  And if so, did the clerk make any effort to provide cllrs with technology to attend meetings virtually where the cllrs didn't have internet connectivity? Did the principal authority issue vacancy notices?
by (30.3k points)
there was an attempt to call a meeting by the chair but the clerk said it was not legal and she would not be responsible so it did not. take place.
Thanks, but as I asked, did the principal authority issue vacancy notices?  The spirit of the Local Government Act 1972 about disqualifying councillors, was to act on failure to attend scheduled meetings.
the reason to cancel meetings until further notice was due to the covid 19 in the March meeting of 2020, which was the last meeting held, through e/mails councilors were still active via the clerk , discussions voting, etc, the clerk went sick for 1 week in SEPT of that year a meeting was arranged to be held via zoom, computers were arranged to be used at the library and the village hall for any councilor who didn't,t have an m/c, the clerk said it was not legal as no proper agenda and not open to the public (as far as i can remember, maybe other reason, just can,t remember exact) and that she would,nt have anything to do with it on her return, the district council did arrange for elections on one half of the parish but stated not enough members of the public asked for an election for the other half of the parish so cooptation was done, they did coop other district councilors at firs to carry the council on.
Thanks for a bit more info. Clearly an issue with your Clerk who gave flawed advice and through incompetence was responsible for the doors suspension. It sounds like the district council established a shadow council to oversee co option. Key question is did all the suspended councillors get back via co option?
Can I just clarify that the decision to cancel meetings until further notice was in a council meeting and was minuted also the village would also be closed and this info was posted in the council notice boards for public information
0 votes
Agree that more information is needed but the Clerk does not have the power to "disqualify Councillors".  However, I've heard of instances where councils decided they didn't want to meet face to face after May 2021 so chose to not do so with the result that the six month rule came into effect (which is contained within the 1972 Act).  A dispensation isn't an option or a power within the Act as there has to be a meeting to approve absences to reset the six month rule clock in each individual case and your post implies this did not take place.

From March 2020 to May 2021 online meetings were possible under government temporary regulations.  Your post implies that your council did not meeting online or otherwise during this period.  Online (via a telephone if appropriate or there was no internet capability) qualified as "attendance" during this period so the six month rule would not apply.
by (2.8k points)
Playing Devils Advocate here but if Councillors don’t meet for six months do you need a Parish Council ?
0 votes
It seems that Mareham-Le-Fen Parish Council experienced the same issue, and the Principal Authority (East Lindsay District Council) suspended their Councillors and advertised vacancies. If Cllrs voted to suspend meetings a competent clerk should have urged them to meet virtually and set up a meeting for them.  Cllrs should know they can be suspended under normal circumstances for failing to attend at least one meeting and should have at least asked for advice.
by (30.3k points)
edited by
Other than during the first lockdown period, councils have been able to meet in person although there was a strong recommendation not to do so and many (possibly most) chose to continue with remote meetings while they could.  During the six month period in question, I have to question why a short face to face meeting (it was classed as a business meeting so permitted under the covid regulations) if only to approve absences so that the six month rule did not kick in should have taken place, potentially with a bare quorum.  Poor show on the part of the clerk if you ask me.
0 votes
Is your Parish Council was a member of NALC ?  Did  the local association have put out an urgent newsletter with guidance and did you get to see it?
by (30.3k points)
0 votes
Did the Principal Authority issue vacancy notices?  Please respond. Potentially you could report the Principal Authority to the Local Government Ombudsman for maladministration  and possibly to the court of appeal if you can demonstrate that they didn't make sufficient effort to establish if the reason for non attendance in a six month period was valid. Cllrs could demonstrate intent to attend, and that the Clerk refused to set up a meeting and issue a summons, there might be a chance of having the Act amended too.
by (30.3k points)
I think you need to be realistic here.  There is no power within the principal authority to waive the application of the 1972 Act (or indeed any other Act of Parliament) and nor is there an opportunity of having the Act amended at this point as it requires the government to take that action.
(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.  It was also stated by Harry  "In March 2020 during Covid it was agreed to cancel all council meetings until further notice" Presumably that was a reason approved by the authority? Was that minuted?
Are you suggesting that the principal authority has a responsibility to monitor attendance at parish council meetings?
Agreeing to cancel a meeting or even not agreeing but cancelling meetings for whatever reason does not constitute an approval for absence from that or any other meeting in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  Approval for an absence of any (or all) councillors needs a decision to approve the reason for an absence which of course can only take place during a meeting (whether that meeting was held in person or online, when permitted).
No, but if the clerk simply e mailed the PA democratic or Legal Services and told them a list of councillors to suspend for 6 months  non attendance, and the list was virtually every councillor, I would in the PA position want to see a minuted record, not just act on an assertion from the clerk. The fact that the clerk did not organise a meeting or issue a summons despite being called on to do so should have been examined by the PA. You can't non attend a meeting that hasn't taken place.
My understanding is that the authority (The Parish Council) effectively approved all of themselves from having to attend council meetings indefinitely using Covid 19 as the reason. Therefore it could be argued that  approved their absences in advance.
My understanding is that the authority (The Parish Council) effectively approved all of themselves from having to attend council meetings indefinitely using Covid 19 as the reason. Therefore it could be argued that  they have also effectively approved their absences in advance if the dispensation was minuted as being resolved.

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