Expelled councillor speaks out after being booted out for non-attendance

Shotton Hall, Peterlee
Shotton Hall, Peterlee

A FORMER councillor has spoken out after being disqualified from his post over non-attendance due to ill health.

Frank Price is no longer a Peterlee town councillor after failing to attend meetings of the local authority for longer than six months.

This is the period that national guidelines say a councillor should be disqualified from their position if they have not given notice of absence.

But former Labour representative Mr Price, who is suffering prostate problems, said he had submitted apologies and they had been accepted.

A notice posted on Durham County Council’s website advertises a vacancy for a councillor in the Edenhill ward, but it says Mr Price has resigned.

But Mr Price said: “I did not resign.

“I had not been able to attend the council meetings for six months due to an illness during which time I was able to continue my council duties from home.

“I did submit my apologies to the council and my apologies were accepted.

“I also wrote a letter to the council seeking a special dispensation on the grounds of ill health.

“However Councillor Andrew Watson and other council members from the FAIR party refused to vote on this.

“On Monday, October 20, I was informed that I had been automatically disqualified due to the six months rule.

“I would like to thank the residents of Edenhill for their support.

“Finally I would like to thank the Labour Party councillors for their concern and support during this difficult time.”

The vacancy notice says if a request for the vacancy is made in writing to The Returning Officer, Electoral Services, Room 1/104-115, County Hall, Durham DH1 5UL by 10 electors for the said parish, an election will be held to fill the said vacancy, otherwise the vacancy will be filled by co-option.

If an election is called, it will take place by January 20, 2015.

Coun Watson said: “Although we wish Frank Price well, his letter was received after the six-month period.”

He said in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972, the motion to consider Mr Price’s letter was beyond the powers of the council, which is why FAIR members refused to take part in the motion.

Councillor Bill Jeffrey, spokesman of the majority political party (Labour) at the town council, said the information on the vacancy notice, a template, was incorrect and confirmed that Mr Price had been disqualified due to the six-month absence rule.

“The council had to accept that ruling from the legal team,” he added.

“The law is there through Government guidelines and we had to apply the law.”

A spokesman for the County Durham Association of Local Councils said this would be a decision for the town council.