Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2018

The Councillor Who Was, Wasn’t, And Still Is, A Councillor

Following the Wigan story of Cllr Steve Jones whose resignation was not a resignation but merely NOTICE of resignation, it is easy to imagine steam arising from the corridors of power at Wigan Towers. The Chief Executive Donna Hall  enjoys an annual salary of £165,000 and there is some ambiguity about the legal office, viz an Assistant Director – Legal and a Strategic Legal Manager – Chief Legal Officer and Principal Solicitor. Apparently neither of whom knew the legal difference between “resignation” and “notice of resignation” that was the key to the dispute. Case law anyone, or just astute legal opinion from London, see below?

As the story unfolded we observed the reference to “following the resignation of” that did 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.

But 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”. And we found that Cllr Steve Jones was having some personal issues and when Wigan Council found out about this they put pressure on him to resign. Under the shear pressure he agreed that he “would resign” on the 20th February 2018. Therefore, confirming his intention, Wigan Council agreed to this but 4 days after this some local residents had contacted him and said don’t do it he changed his mind of his intention. And we 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. His supporters said that 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 “about the “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 court 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. They 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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