Nov 26 2016

If you can’t stand the heat…

harrow_council_logo…get out of the Council Chamber.

It’s time for the next council meeting soon (December 1st from 7.30pm – you will be there, yes?), and there’s an interesting item on the agenda.

Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 states that if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of six consecutive months to attend any meeting of the authority, he/she shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period, cease to be a member of the authority.

Or, in order words, a Councillor – who picks up a rather handsome allowance[1] for, in some cases, doing bloody nothing – needs to only attend two meetings a year, hardly an onerous chore.

However, we seem to have two councillors – both Labour – who are, unfortunately, rather unwell at the moment, and may not be able to carry out those two meetings a year, let alone get out and about doing casework in their respective wards. The papers continue:

Due to a serious health condition, Councillor Mitzi Green may not be able to attend Council on 1 December 2016 and there is a risk of the statutory provisions applying.

Councillor Bob Currie also has a serious health condition and, whilst he attended Council on 22 September 2016, he may not be able to attend future meetings.

For the reasons outlined above, it is proposed that both Councillors be granted a dispensation from the requirement to attend a meeting of the Council until 18 May 2017 (Annual Council).

The most obvious thing, of course, would be to stand down as a councillor, and let someone else stand for election to take over. The problem is that both of these have been councillors since 2002, and have been re-elected at each election ever since, so Labour clearly don’t want to run the risk of losing a couple of seats – in doing so, it exposes itself to significant risk. It’s all well and good having a majority, but the slimmer that majority, the weaker your party becomes – if they lost those two seats, they’d only have 32 seats across the borough, with the opposition and minority groups totalling 31. Literally, two disenfranchised Labour members – and there’s more than that, according to our source in the group – could fracture the administration.

Of course, all this is academic: the proposal will be nodded through with Labour supporting it, the Conservatives objecting, and the other dribs and drabs, never quite sure which bed to jump into, will safely abstain knowing they remain powerless to make a difference either way.

We hope both councillors are well on the road to recovery, but if Labour want to lose the label of ‘laughing stock’ perhaps a conversation ought to be had about whether hanging on for a few grand a year is really the right thing to do.

[1] £8340 per annum, which works out at about £1400 an hour if they attend just their two, three-hour council meetings. Nice work if you can get it.

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  1. Bill Stephenson

    This a really nasty and disgusting comment and extremely insulting to two excellent councillors who are suffering serious ill health. I can remember occasions well when we have invoked this provision for Cllrs of all political parties. I can think of one senior Conservative Cllr who was unable to attend for nearly year and then came back. Indeed when I stood down as Leader in November 2012 due to ill health there was a time I had discussions about involving this procedure for myself. In the end I was able to attend Council and am glad I did but it was an effort.

    Paul at heart I think you are probably quite a decent person but this comment really does you little credit.

    Your comments that Cllrs are paid £1400 an hour are also a really puerile misrepresentation – or is it all supposed to be a joke – of the many, many hours that Cllrs of all political parties actually spend attending Council committees and outside bodies representing the Council, representing their constituents at meetings and trying to sort out their problems, holding surgeries, and so many other things. Being a Cllr is very, very time consuming and important job which puts real pressure on having any family life or free time. Your continual unfair denigration of Cllrs does a real disservice to democracy.

    Bill Stephenson

    1. red mirror

      well said paul wouldn’t be tolerated in any other line of work.

  2. Mary Christmas

    Total BS from BS. If being a councillor is such an important job as he claims then how can it be done by someone who is incapacitated? Note he refers to ‘councillors’ in general when describing all the activities – how about listing what these two have actually done this year then we can judge for ourselves.

    Of course I wish the two ‘virtual’ councillors a speedy recovery but if that doesn’t happen they really should seriously consider resigning. Council business must go on and residents must receive service – that is more important than maintaining a politician’s standard of living.

    This is tax-payers’ money we are talking about, every penny must be accounted for. BS please tell us, what level of non-attendance would you consider unacceptable? Please qualify your answer by stating which has higher priority – Harrow’s residents or the Labour party?

    Well done Paul, once again, for telling us the things they prefer we never find out.

    1. red mirror

      your logic and reason are unassailable mary hurrah for paul boakes one of the very very few willing to to take a stand without worrying about pc flimflammery and upsetting apple carts once again paul you have shone a light and more than a few are squinting.

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