A COUNCILLOR has defended his absence at council meetings and says he is battling an illness.
Peterlee town councillor Frank Price has been unable to attend meetings of Peterlee Town Council for seven months – longer than the six-month period of absence before a councillor is disqualified from their position without giving notice of absence.
The ruling party on the council, the Labour Party, has been accused of failing to disqualify Coun Price, Labour representative for the Edenhill ward, for fear of losing a seat to another party.
The matter is being dealt with by a solicitor.
But Coun Price said: “I haven’t been able to attend through illness, I have had prostate problems. “I used to put my apologies in and explained the situation.” He said his non-attendance hadn’t affected his ability to perform his civic duties, adding: “I’ve still been working from home and helping my constituents, it hasn’t affected my ability to help.”
But Free and Independent Representation (FAIR) party member, Councillor Andrew Watson said: “He hasn’t turned up for a meeting for seven months.
“February 3 was the last time he turned up.
“His electorate is not being represented on Peterlee Town Council because he isn’t turning up.
“All the people who voted for him have wasted a vote.”
Coun Watson, who represents the Passfield ward, claims that the ruling Labour party fear a by-election and that a FAIR Party candidate could win the seat. “The Labour Party don’t want to get rid of him, they are terrified there well be a by-election and they are terrified of losing a seat,” he said.
Councillor Bill Jeffrey, town council leader, said: “It is in the hands of the deputy town clerk and she is seeking a legal ruling from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) in London and we should have an answer before the next full council meeting on Monday.”
He said Coun Price had given apologies for absence at the meetings and the reasons had been accepted.
He added that Coun Price had also handed in a letter to the council asking for special dispensation for non-attendance before the six-month deadline.
A spokesman for the County Durham Association of Local Councils, a member of the (NALC), said: “We are trying to seek legal advice to see what the situation is.
“We hope to have some sort of ruling from our solicitor.”