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6 months absence rule , and co-opting after?

0 votes
Having spent some time reading about the 6 months absence rule, and still being confused about it, i wonder if it would be possible to get confirmation about this, and also about co-opting after.

If we have a case where a councillor hasn't attended a council meeting for 6 months, but they have sent at least one apology within this 6 months period, would they still lose their place automatically? This has happened recently to one - during this Covid online meeting period. I have read in some places that the apology should be voted and approved, and only then does the time reset. Is this true?

But what about the fact that apologies are recorded as part of the minutes and the minutes approved at the next meeting - is this not actually approving the apologies? We've never voted on apologies before, which for me, means something is wrong there?

The other strange thing is that, we're being told that the councillor is going to fill a form to be co-opted again at the next meeting (which incidentally is in a week's time), is that all lawful? If someone loses their place on the council due to the 6 month absence rule, shouldn't there be the normal notification period etc... for election?

would really appreciate some clarity on this, just to know the process...thanks
by (200 points)

4 Answers

+1 vote

The quick and dirty answer (others might be able to much fuller answers)

A received apology does not have to be accepted. There should ideally be a reason for not accepting them - or at least it should be obvious to a 'reasonable person' "I can't come to tomorrow's meeting" isn't acceptable, "I can't come to tomorrow's meeting due to X" is likely to be acceptable.

Formally accepted apologies reset the 6 month rule.

Once the 6th month rule has removed a councillor, the Clerk must inform the district council of the vacancy. This start and deadline of the notice of vacancy is set the district council, not the Parish, - the district council may delay this process during the pandemic. 

Only once this notice of vacancy has expired, can you can you co-opt. You cannot co-opt on a temporary basis.

At the present time, this might mean you are short of a councillor for quite a while, until elections can be held in 2021.

by (9.0k points)
This situation of course highlights what many councils see as a formality at the start of the meeting in fact being carried out correctly. All absences should be recorded along with reasons given. The council should then accept or reject the validity of that reason. It is up to the absent councillor to ensure that they have sufficient grounds to not attend their summons to a meeting. If this is done then there is a ratified record of each councillor's non attendance
Thanks - so this is what I wanted some clarity on -> we have got apologies with a reason recorded. This is in the minutes, and approved under the minutes implicitly. Was there more that was needed? Here I am going with the logical assumption that unless rejected, it means reason given was accepted, since the minutes was approved?
Dk the stage that is missed usually is that a formal acceptance or not by the council (not the clerk or the chair) of the reasons given for apology. This may be as informal as a show of hands to accept the reason given with knowledge of the absentee's position. This is what is entered into the minutes and then signed off at the next meeting by the chair as a true record. It should be for the council to specify what they see as acceptable reasons for non attendance.
+1 vote
I agree with everything that has been said do far, but to clarify the issue of the approval of the minutes, this process verifies that the minutes are an accurate record of the proceedings of the meeting.  So if you have not debated and formally approved the reason for absence, the minutes will show that an apology was offered, but not debated or approved. When you approve the minutes at the following meeting, you are verifying that the apology was NOT accepted through the required process.
by (47.4k points)
Thanks - makes sense!
+1 vote

The Local Government Act 1972 states that when a Council Member fails to attend any meeting for six consecutive months from the date of his last attendance, he/she ceases to be a member of the authority, unless the Council accepts a reason for the failure to attend before the six months period expires.  Reasons would most often be health issues, for example a period of ill health followed by recovery from an operation etc.

by (33.3k points)
+1 vote
Following on from the comments already received, my council has resolved to not accept any apologies from any councillor.  Apologies are noted but not approved and this is clearly stated on the minutes.  This was to counter the situation where a councillor didn't attend for over a year and gave apologies to reset the clock, therefore causing the council to be under manned.

Some people may think that is unfair and would penalise someone with a long term illness or similar but the counter argument to that is if the person is that ill, then they should concentrate on getting better rather than taking on the responsibility of a parish councillor....
by (22.1k points)
thanks @mrsabster - i did see that comment from yours on a different question, and i think it's actually a good resolution - something to look into
That's a hardline interpretation, but it frees the other members from the reponsibility of deciding which excuses are, or are not, acceptable. I'm aware of a former Chairman of thirty years who hasn't attended for over a year, but nobody wants to kick him out and the Clerk is refusing to speak to him, because he's ill. His health is not going to improve, but members have decided to adopt a COVID exemption from Section 85, as he is shielding in a home with no internet access.

It's worth noting, of course, that Section 85 doesn't allow any discretion after the event or place any power in the hands of the remaining members. If you don't attend, you're out.
It is hard line but  equally I see the problems that absenteeism creates for the remaining councillors and why should you get the prestige without putting in the effort....
We move into a region where honesty and integrity required of councillors is called into question of course.A councillor following the laid down Nolan principles would long ago have done what is right for the council and community and resigned because they were not carrying out their obligations they were elected to fulfil the most basic being to respond to a summons to appear.

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