A report of the Monitoring Officer was considered which provided the Council with an opportunity to grant a dispensation under the Local Government Act 1972 to excuse the non-attendance of Councillors Rosemary Kaberry-Brown and Judy Smith at a meeting of the Council within a six-month period.
The Leader of the Council proposed the dispensation be granted, highlighting the two Councillors were long-standing and well-respected Members of the Council. He took this opportunity to wish them well and, in speaking to them both, reported they were looking forward to being able to return soon.
The proposal was seconded.
The following points were noted during debate of the motion:
· Members took the opportunity to wish Councillors Kaberry-Brown and Judy Smith well with their health
· They were well-respected and honourable Councillors who had served on the Authority for approximately 20 years
· Regrettably, given that a previous dispensation for a six-month absence had been granted, it would appear that, sadly, the Councillors were unable to perform the role to which they were elected
· A post had been placed on social media by a Member to undertake a survey in the Deepings and 88% of people thought the Councillors should not be granted a further six months by way of a dispensation
· Residents in the Councillors’ respective wards were not being sufficiently represented
· There were financial implications for the Council associated with being a Councillor
· The dispensation should not be supported on this occasion, but the two Councillors should be conferred with the status of Honourable Alderwomen
· If the Councillors were still able to undertake case work in their wards a compromise could be that they be temporarily replaced on Committees with other Members who may be better placed to attend the meetings until they were able to return
· Both Councillors were still undertaking ward work for the areas they represented and continued to work closely with their fellow Councillors in their respective wards
· To assume that a Councillor was not undertaking their role effectively due to being physically unable to attend meetings at the Council was nonsensical
· Social media was not an appropriate forum for this matter
· Financial implications should not come into consideration of this matter. However, if two vacancies arose as a result of not granting a dispensation the preceding by-elections would cost the district a great deal more than the cost of their basic allowance
· The report stated that the two Councillors in question had been prevented from undertaking normal duties and there was no reference within the report to confirm that they had in fact been continuing with their casework
· This Council would stand by and support an employee in the same circumstances regarding their health and the granting of this dispensation sought to do the same for the two Councillors
· It was disappointing this debate had been held, discussing the personal circumstances of the two Councillors named in the report, when the motion should have just been voted on as had traditionally been the case
Having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote the motion was AGREED.
That a dispensation be approved for Councillors Rosemary Kaberry-Brown and Judy Smith from attending meetings to avoid disqualification as Members of South Kesteven District Council under Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972.
The meeting temporarily adjourned at this stage of the meeting for a period of fifteen minutes.