Why this council was forced to invoke rarely-used powers
PUBLISHED: 14:58 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:58 30 September 2020
East Suffolk Council
Rarely-used powers have been used by two parish councils in East Suffolk after they were unable to meet because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The government passed emergency legislation during the coronavirus lockdown to enable councils to meet remotely, but two East Suffolk parish councils – Knodishall and Sutton have been unable to meet either in person or remotely in that time.
According to a report presented to East Suffolk Council last week, Knodishall last met on February 18 with the authority unable to convene meetings because a number of its members were not internet or email users.
MORE: Government passes legislation to enable remote council meetings during lockdown
Sutton Parish Council meanwhile last met on January 15. The report said poor broadband connections and some members not having the necessary IT meant they could not meet.
Laws under the Local Government Act mean councillors who do not attend a meeting for six months must vacate their role and following this rule councillors in Knodishall left office on August 18, while members in Sutton vacated office on July 15.
Last week, East Suffolk Council agreed to temporarily appoint those councillors back into their roles in order to keep the councils going, until an election can be held, under Local Government Act rules.
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That legislation dictates that where there are so many vacancies that a parish council cannot reasonably operate, the district council can appoint people until an election can be held.
Currently, that is expected to be in May 2021.
East Suffolk Council leader Steve Gallant said: “Where there are so many vacancies in the office of parish or community councillor that the parish or community council are unable to act then under Section 91 of the Local Government Act of 1972 the district council may, by order, appoint persons to fulfil all or any of the vacancies until other councillors are elected and take up office.
“There is a need for this council to make temporary appointments under Section 91 of the Local Government Act 1972, so Knodishall Parish Council and Sutton Parish Council are quorate and can transact business.”
The council also approved delegation to the leader and chief executive to make further appointments to any other parish councils with the same problem.
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