Louth Town Council could face £3,000 bill for potential by-election

Louth Town Council could face a bill of more than £3,000 if a recently vacated council seat is contested in a by-election.

The Sessions House in Eastgate - home to Louth Town Council. EMN-160719-094619001

At the council meeting last Tuesday, councillors expressed disappointment after Labour councillor for Trinity Ward, Andrew Austin, attended just one council meeting in the last 12 months - and was subsequently been removed from the council following an absence of more than six months.

Mr Austin told the Leader last week that he was ‘sad’ to leave the council, but that he struggled to maintain his commitment to the ward due to his new full-time job, after school clubs, and four children at home.

At the meeting last week, Coun Andrew Leonard said: “I think it’s a great shame that we’ve got to this point.

“This councillor, who didn’t attend for six months and then did attend under what appeared to be duress and sat looking like a sick parrot because he had been demanded his attendance here to keep the vote in.

“I think it’s a poor state of affairs because if an election were to now be called, then that’s a substantial cost on the ratepayer of £3,000 plus.”

Before March this year, East Lindsey District Council covered the costs of parish council elections but now - as part of ELDC’s bid to save £6 million over the next four years - these election costs have been delegated to the parish councils themselves.

The Town Clerk informed councillors that some costs will still be incurred by the Town Council if the vacancy is filled by co-option, but not as high as £3,000.

Coun Leonard later added: “If it had been dealt with properly before when the timescale ran out last time - instead of wasting another six months, when the rules changed after that threshold - then it wouldn’t have cost us anything.

“Let’s hope that we get somebody on the council to fill that vacancy who wants to do something, rather than just wear a political badge.”

Coun Chris Green suggested that people should not be deterred from standing for the vacancy because of the potential costs. He added: “We are supposed to be a democracy.

“The fact that (elections) cost money - tough!”

• Requests for an election to be held to fill the vacancy must be made in writing to ELDC’s Returning Officer before August 9.

The address is: Stuart Davy, Returning Officer, Tedder Hall, Manby Park, Louth, LN11 8UP.

An election will be held if more than 10 electors for the parish write in to request an election; otherwise, the vacancy will be filled by co-option.