Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 22, 2018

Independent Councillor Beats Election Cock-up In Wigan

An Independent Wigan Cllr has won a claim against Wigan Council . A by-election due to take place today (Thursday) in Wigan has been called off at a few hours’ notice after intervention by the High Court. In an unprecedented ruling Mr Justice Martin Spencer found returning officer Donna Hall had no jurisdiction to start the process of choosing a new ward representative to replace Steve Jones. He said this was a very rare occasion where the courts intervening in local democracy was justified. This was because the vote in Bryn was simply “not lawful” the judge said.

The council said it called the Bryn ward by-election after Independent councillor Steve Jones resigned. But Mr Jones maintained he had not resigned and had stood again as a candidate in the aborted by-election.

The High Court took the rare step of intervening in an election because it found that Mr Jones never resigned and that returning officer Donna Hall, Wigan’s chief executive, therefore had no jurisdiction to call the by-election. A costs order was made in favour of Mr Jones.

A Wigan statement in response to the ruling said “Today’s decision is really disappointing. We feel the residents of Bryn should have the right to have their say following the resignation of Councillor Steve Jones on 5 January. The cancellation of this by-election removes that democratic right. We’d like to apologise to those who have already taken the time to vote. It’s our belief that there’s a clear distinction between election and employment law, the key difference in this case being that councillors cannot withdraw a resignation as it takes effect immediately. However, in the interests of protecting the public purse we will not be appealing this decision”.

So, how much HAS the public purse lost then in costs for Cllr Jones?


Responses

  1. It sounds like they had no letter of resignation? Shady goings on in, what has been, a council to look at for the way to do things

    • You are probably right, it refers merely to “following the resignation of” and does not state how. The full court papers are not yet available but this case involves the Chief Executive and presumably the Borough Solicitor, whose electoral law competence might now be in doubt? NB I have just discovered this news “Returning officer Donna Hall, who is also Wigan Council’s chief executive, was not present in court for the interim hearing in Manchester. Mr Justice Kerr said “On the question of whether the claimant resigned by written notice, if I had to decide today I would decide without much difficulty he did not”. NNB More news trickles in Cllr Steve Jones was having some personal issue and when Wigan Council found out about this they put pressure on him to resign. Under the shear pressure he agreed that he “would” on the 20th February 2018. Therefore confirming his intention. Wigan Council agreed to this but 4 days after this and residents had contacted him and said not to do it he changed his mind of his intention. We have now had a well respected solicitor in London confirm in his initial findings that the act of the Council is unlawful and therefore Cllr Steve Jones has a great case to bring. As we all know legal action is not cheap and therefore we are trying to raise £2,000 to contribute towards those costs. As one person said 100 people at £20 raises the amount. Larger or smaller donations are equally important as not everyone has that kind of money at the minute.
      If you feel strongly enough for Cllr Steve Jones and/ or Democracy please support any way you can because after all is said and done DEMOCRACY IS NOT ONLY FOR THE RICH

      It becomes still more intriguing by this news “That Strange Turn Of Events In Wigan: Chaos reigned after Wigan Council insisted an independent councillor could not reverse his decision to quit the chamber. Coun Steve Jones, independent representative for Bryn ward, performed a dramatic U-turn when he posted on Facebook that he was staying on. This came just a few days after he announced he was stepping down on February 20 for personal reasons. However, the town hall has now insisted that he actually resigned on the day he said he would step down and a notice of casual vacancy for a new councillor has already been published. Coun Jones [had told the council]: “With a lot of thought I have to inform you that as of the 20th of February 2018 I will be resigning my role as an elected councillor for Wigan Council”. The law says that a resignation takes effect when received, but is a resignation that is described as being for a date in the future really a resignation before that date? I think the lawyers will have some fun with this one.
      In the meantime, he has since turned up to a council meeting and insisted on taking his seat as a councillor. Only when the meeting was adjourned did he agree to move to the public gallery. Councillor Jones’s vacillation over whether or not to resign may be connected with the run of controversies he has recently been in, with a caution for assault, a drink driving conviction, a series of aggressive social media postings about the council’s Chief Executive and a warning that he would not be able to vote on the council’s budget as he was behind with his council tax payments.
      Although the notice of election had been issued, ballot papers printed, postal votes sent out – and even at least 754 votes returned, the courts ruled it was wrong of the council to take his resignation as having immediate effect. The council and the Returning Officer were granted leave to appeal but decided not to, “in order to protect the public purse”.

      Wigan Council used its twitter account openly in respect of councillors and their council tax. Theye were asked “This council is so corrupt, how many of “our” councillors didn’t pay their council tax last year??” and they, Wigan, replied “Replying to @clarepe007
      Just one @clarepe007 Steve Jones”. Then asked “Replying to @WiganCouncil Has he at any point said “I’ve learnt a valuable lesson and regret my actions?” If not” and they replied “Replying to @GRALambo @WiganCouncil Yes he has”.


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