Are You A Stitched-Up Council Tax Payer? Probably!

Can you recall that in October 2017 WLBC Labour Cllr Gail Hodson published the picture below, after Tory councillors walked OUT of the Council meeting.

Well, it transpires that from October 2019 to April 2020 Ashurst Cllr Hodson hasn’t walked IN to the council chamber. Or any other meeting room. What a turnaround! What goes around comes around, eh?

I wrote to WLBC “I’m writing for your guidance on the absence of an elected member for Aughton & Downholland, Samuel Currie, whose meetings absence record is officially quoted for various periods as 14% and 20%, albeit he will apparently not be financially penalised for absences of 86% and 80% of his duties.

“Cllr Currie made public by tweet he was not seeking re-election in the May 2020 elections as he would be living in London. He has in fact confirmed that also by tweeting views from his London home.

“I’m not alone in Aughton in wondering when Cllr Currie ever represented the ward at Council. So it came as a huge relief that we might, from May 2020, elect a representative of the people for the people of Aughton & Downholland.

The unfortunate coronavirus epidemic has changed that coming election. Cllr Currie had tweeted “This morning I spoke to my group leader at West Lancs and told him of my decision not to seek re-election in May. I still own my home in West Lancs but recently moved my life to London so it’s the only way forward. Because of the decision to cancel the May 2020 elections Cllr Currie tweeted “…so it seems I will not be standing down in May. I look forward to 12 more months on @Westlancsbc”.

“Is there any resolution to this problem, perhaps via the Constitution, or by public request, whereby Cllr Currie might be unseated and the vacancy left unfilled, saving council tax payers what Cllr Currie might be paid in absentia?”

I received the usual wait and see response.

So I wrote again about absentee elected member Currie, Aughton & Downholland, while still awaiting a decision that he now being permanently resident in London, as he confirms by public tweet, his election should be declared void and no further allowances be paid to him.

“I also note the situation of Cllr Gail Hodson, member for Ashurst, “Total expected attendances: 8, total attendances 0, absent 100%. Is it the intention of WLBC that notwithstanding the electorates of Aughton & Downholland and Ashurst paying council tax for all services including member representation these councillors will receive full allowances?

“How long will we have to tolerate this situation, this waste of public taxes, before expulsion is applied?”.

And I received this reply

“Thank you for your emails of 6 and 20 April regarding elected members which I acknowledged on the 8 and 20 April respectively.

“The reasons why a vacancy may occur are prescribed in law under the Local Government Act 1972. These include; resignation, death, disqualification and failure to attend meetings for a consecutive period of at least 6 months (unless a local authority were to approve the absence).

“Vacancy by disqualification is prescribed in law under the following circumstances only; holding paid employment as an officer of the authority, being declared bankrupt, being sentenced to imprisonment of 3 months or more, disqualified for financial offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983, or being found guilty of corrupt or illegal practices by an election court.

“There is no other process in law for a (casual) vacancy to arise or to reduce the allowances of members to reflect their attendance at meetings.

“The Coronavirus Act 2020 postponed the May 2020 elections to May 2021. As part of the postponement, those members up for election this year are extended in office to May 2021″.

So I wrote “Thank you. It seems to me, to quote a well known author, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass, a idiot” especially in the case of non attendance equalling payment of full allowances to delinquent councillors. The laws you quote protect delinquent councillors and punish the local electorates who have no democratic rights of representation. We are truly in a borough of taxation without representation.

“Quite why these elected members are protected by everything but absenteeism shows the protectionism they live by. Don’t you find the quotation of the “Representation of the People Act 1983” rather odd, and isn’t there a corresponding “Representation of the Taxpayers’ Act” somewhere in the statute book? Perhaps the most suitable and apt quote in these instances of absenteeism is another that states “Taxation without representation is tyranny”.

“I have no wish to take the matter further, I am only too aware of how stitched up we council taxpayers are”.

However, Sod’s, or Murphy’s, law intervened

as it became obvious that there is in fact a six month period of failure to attend meetings for a consecutive period in the case of Cllr Gail Hodson. So off we pop with what seems a given, a certain result for taxpayers “Please forgive me for returning to the subject of absent elected members despite my intention not to, but having re-examined the situation of Cllr Gail Hodson I note her absences now cover the period 29/10/2019 – 22/04/2020, which would seem to be covered by your second paragraph below, that a vacancy in law WILL arise unless the local authority were to approve the absence.

“Would you therefore be kind enough to confirm that WLBC will shortly act within its “failure to attend meetings for a consecutive period of at least 6 months” ability to declare a vacancy for Ashurst ward?”

And there we are. The ball is back in WLBC’s court. Or, the “Party Leaders’ court”, whatever that is? Think WLBC paying £9,680 of your hard earned income to be dumped in the waste bin, which ironically you pay for too!

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