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Two parish councillors, a husband and wife, moved abroad on 31 January 2022. Neither has attended a council meeting in person since 25 January 2022 but, neither has resigned from the parish council. One of them still contributes to the parish councillors' 'WhatApp' which is shared only by parish councillors. The other has attended parish council working party meetings via Zoom. 

Local residents are furious that neither has resigned as this prevents other people who live in the parish replacing them. 

If they do not attend a parish council meeting in person for 6 months - which will expire on 25 July 2022 - will they then be automatically disqualified from office or can this only be achieved by a majority vote of the parish council? Is there any way that the parish council could vote to extend their period of office beyond this 6-month period?  Such a vote would be very controversial and unpopular.

What action can local residents or the parish council take to secure the removal from office of these two councillors either now or after they have not attended a parish council meeting in person for 6 months? 

by (480 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
There is a 6 month rule and this is automatic, except, where the council accepts the apologies (e.g. they may accept serious illness as a reason), if the apologies are accepted the 6 month rule is reset.
by (9.0k points)
0 votes
As somebody else said after six months of non attendance the six month rule kicks in and they automatically lose their seats, it doesn’t go to vote, it just happens.  In certain circumstances apologies (such as for illness) can be accepted and the clock so to speak restarts but this has to be done before the non attendance starts.  In this case I would just keep quiet and then on 25th July ask your Clerk to write to them explaining that due to non attendance of meetings for six months they are no longer a councillor.
by (3.8k points)
As before such things highlight the essential need to minute at each meeting of the council apologies received  and a vote of acceptance ( or rejection) of apology. Also surely the PC has a duty( via the clerk) to inform any errant councillors of the impending 6 month limit and to enable them to mend their ways? Doing so ( recording at meetings) will enable argument free removal of such errant councillors.
No duty falls on either the council or the clerk in respect of attendance or of notifying impending disqualifaction.
And the duty of the clerk to advise councillors of their legal obligations?
That duty is met when the clerk sends a summons to all councillors to attend XYZ meeting.
Strange that you don't feel it would be part of the clerks duty to inform a councillor of such a situation they were in with impending repercussions of being removed from office. Why would the clerk not? as surely it is they that "tot up" the attendance records to show non- compliance. Would you desire a clerk who did not inform the council when a legal requirement had to be completed by but said nothing?
Clerks do not act as secretary for individual councillors.  The duty of the clerk is to send summonses to meetings and the duty of a councillor is to attend.  In fact, it is one of the very few "duties" that a councillor has!  However, it might be the policy of the council that a reminder is sent when nearing the 6 month absence date but there is no legal requirement to do so.  I do know of some councils where an informal reminder is sent and some where there is a definite policy not to remind councillors as it might be felt that if a councillor can't be bothered to attend, they why would they want that councillor to continue as a councillor.
No one said that the clerk should act as secretary for a councillor but it is the duty of the clerk to advise when legal requirements are not being made and I see nowhere that individual councillors and the council as a whole are not part of this obligation. As stated the clerk is ( or should be in possession) of the required data on attendance when summoned of councillors and is thereby obligated to highlight any impending legal infringement by councillor or council.
Your last statement is as far from professional conduct as one can get. Councils cannot or should not be run on a "it might be felt" basis and I assume that this was not meant to condone such policy and reinforces a duty of care needed by the clerk on such matters.
Attitude not necessary mentorman.  I am simply stating that the clerk's duty is to advise the council, not councillors individually.  Nor am I condoning the attitude of very many councils with regard to the absence by some councillors but reporting on my experiences, partly through reading this forum!  I believe there is case law to support that it is not the Clerk's duty to remind councillors of their duties.  Perhaps Dave can quote the relevant case as he's much more up to date on these matters.  A similar incident might be when a councillor fails to declare an interest at a meeting.  Clerks would likely be aware of a duty by a councillor to declare an interest, might remind that councillor (but are not obliged to do so) but it still remains the responsibility of the councillor to do so.
In my council, a reminder to attend is likely to be sent as our clerk is professional, but I am aware of others that don't.  It doesn't remove the application of section 85 if/when triggered.
Totally agree with your comments as Councillors are responsible for their own actions.  Councils consist of grown people who have to know that their absence is getting close to the 6 month mark.  This is not a class of unruly pupils that the Clerk has to keep under control!  Personally I email the councillor to advise them that unless they attend the next meeting, they will lose their seat but there is no obligation in the standing orders, legislation, meeting minutes, contract of employment or job description to say that I must do this.  And it from these documents / laws that I get authority to act.
Duty does not wholly apply to legal duty but must, also be applied to the smooth running of the institution of a PC. MrsAbster has, has as per usual shown a pragmatic attitude to solving what could be a problem for a council.
Question? How many councils would function if the chair ( and vice Chair) only carried out their "legal duty"? - Chairing meetings and nothing else?
I would propose that many councils are in the mess they are because many councillors only carry out what they see as their "legal duty" rather than finding ways to get the "job done" for their communities.
+1 vote
Working party meetings by Zoom count as meetings of the Council for the purposes of Section 85, so the six-month rule doesn't apply to this individual, however contributions to a WhatsApp group do not.
by (53.3k points)
Whilst I would always acknowledge your greater knowledge Dave on such matters, my own understanding is that zoom meetings do not count for the purpose of section 85 other than under the temporary regulations, now repealed, for covid.  Do you have a reference for this?  When we had a similar incident some years ago (long before covid or zoom to be honest), a councillor tried to claim section 85 didn't apply as he'd attended an external event "as a councillor" but it was held, upon investigation by the MO and elections office, that as the councillor hadn't been asked to attend on behalf of the council, this wouldn't apply.
Do agendas and minutes of the sub committee /working party/zoom meetings at which they have attended need to be in the public domain?
There's a big difference between a committee or sub-committee and a working party or zoom meeting.  A committee (and/or sub-committee) is a formal meeting which must have a formal agenda, be advertised 3 clear days in advance of the meeting and must permit members of the public to attend.  Attendance at a committee is attendance at a formal meeting for the purposes of section 85, i.e. attendance is required in person etc.  A working party is a very informal gathering with no requirement for agendas or minutes (good practice to do these but not a legal requirement) and no requirement for any other formalities.  Zoom meetings, other than those permitted during the covid lockdown periods when temporary legislation allowed these to be classed as formal meetings of the council, do not "count" as attendance at meetings whether or not the public were included in the meeting

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