Call for Clacton MP Giles Watling to resign his district council position due to poor attendance record

Giles Watling, Conservative MP for Clacton and Tendring district councillor for the Frinton ward Pic

Giles Watling, Conservative MP for Clacton and Tendring district councillor for the Frinton ward Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant

Clacton MP Giles Watling is facing pressure to resign his Tendring District Council seat after missing all meetings he was expected to attend for 18 months.

Giles Watling, MP for Clacton and councillor for the Frinton ward, has been reported to Tendring District Council (TDC) for his poor attendance record – and could be removed from the council altogether unless he makes a prompt return.

The Conservative MP, who has been recorded absent at 10 council meetings since he became an MP in 2017, has been claiming basic allowance ever since – at £5,000 per year – but he says it has been donated to charity.

He has been reported to the council as a matter of procedure, as the constitution states any member who goes four months without attending a meeting should be made known to the full council.

While he has been present at four cabinet meetings since he was made an MP, the last of which was in June, Mr Watling has not attended a single full council meeting since May 2017 – one year and six months ago.

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Garry Calver, deputy leader of the district Labour group, called Mr Watling’s record “unforgivable” and said he should resign his council position.

“This isn’t a party political point,” he said. “I have got to be honest – I believe Giles Watling’s behaviour has been disrespectful to the council as a whole and all of the councillors who work very hard for their constituents and are being let down by his actions.”

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Responding to the report, Mr Watling said he intended to step down as a councillor in May – but he did not feel his dual responsibility had impeded his dedication to the role in any way.

“I don’t believe I have broken any rules or indeed neglected any of my constituents, in fact being their MP as well has been to their advantage,” he said.

“My position is far from not having precedent as ‘dual mandate’ is accepted by all parties when a person gains an elected post greater than previous elected positions.

“I would like it noted that until my second election my council attendance was pretty much 100%.”

He said that he intended to stand down “at the earliest opportunity” after his election last year, but was persuaded by colleagues and some members of the public to stay on as a by-election would be “unwanted”.

“With the help of my excellent co-ward councillor, Nick Turner and the support of the officers of the council, I have remained in constant contact with the workings of the council both at ward level and at district,” he said.

“Over the last 11 years we have worked tirelessly for Frinton-on-Sea. I believe the service we provide has not been impaired in any way.

“As I have been elected to a hung parliament where every vote counts, and our council meetings are held on Tuesday nights, which is when we have three-line whips, I have not been able to make it to council meetings. I have, when possible – on Fridays again – attended cabinet meetings.”

He added he was in the process of donating the entirety of his £5,000 yearly allowance to local and national charities.

Mr Watling has not claimed any additional expenses in the year to date.

According to section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972, any councillor who fails to attend a meeting for six consecutive months will lose their seat.

This means that if Mr Watling fails to attend a meeting by next month he faces expulsion from the council.

In some cases, an absence of six months or more may be allowed due to illness or some other mitigating factor.

A spokesman for TDC confirmed that the law applies to its members in the same way as at any other council.

“There is legislation that covers attendance by councillors at meetings which applies to all members of our authority as it does all others,” he said.

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