Absentee councillor criticised after not holding a ward surgery in three years

Absentee councillor criticised after not holding a ward surgery in three years

By Gareth Dennison | 29/05/2020

Absentee councillor criticised after not holding a ward surgery in three years
Labour’s Katherine Wilson - independent Cllr Clive Jepson


AN INDEPENDENT councillor has criticised an absentee ex-ward colleague who lost her seat for not holding a ward surgery for three years.

Labour’s Katherine Wilson was kicked off the council on May 1, under a rule which requires members to attend at least one meeting every six months.

Her party’s response to attendance criticism in the past has stressed that there is more to the elected role than just meetings — such as dealing with residents’ problems at surgeries.

But information obtained by independent Cllr Clive Jepson shows Ms Wilson had not invoiced the council for room hire for a surgery since sitting at South Anston Methodist Church three years ago.

Cllr Jepson — facing an increased workload while the third Anston & Woodsetts seat remains empty until May 2021 — said: “Former Cllr Wilson failed to hold a ward surgery since April 2017, failed to attend ward events organised for the local communities and meetings of outside bodies she was appointed to, for example the Chesterfield Canal Steering Group, and failed to attend monthly ward councillor meetings with RMBC officers and other outside agencies like South Yorkshire Police.

“She also attended only two Woodsetts Parish Council meetings and did not attend any Anston Parish Council meetings.”

A leaked list showing who Labour had planned to put up for election year — before the 12-month coronavirus delay — included Ms Wilson.

Cllr Jepson said: “I sent nine emails between June 2017 and March 2020 to the leader, deputy leader, chief executive and cabinet members drawing their attention to the fact that the then-Cllr Wilson was not attending Anston & Woodsetts ward-based RMBC meetings and events, as well as not attending the formal council meetings and committees.

“Despite all of the above, the Labour Party approved and selected her as a candidate for what would have been the 2020 local elections earlier this month.”

Independent campaigner Michael Sylvester said: “Ms Wilson’s attendance has been an issue that had been flagged for over two years and which the Labour group and wider party must have been aware of.

“Yet she had been approved as a candidate to stand in an election that would have been held seven days after she would have lost her seat through non-attendance.

“Should we take as a conclusion that either the Labour group or wider party do not have an issue with ultra low attendance by councillors?”

Mr Sylvester speculated that the party keeping “deadwood” councillors might be linked to the seven per cent levy Labour takes from members’ allowances.

He added: “How does this income from allowances dictate Labour policy and activity locally, whether it’s the number of councillors we have in Rotherham, the amount they are paid or the recent issue of poor attendees retaining the whip because they are cash cows for the party?”

Labour’s Leon Allcock was also removed on May 1, while Richard Price resigned a few days earlier — both after prolonged absences from meetings.

Council leader Cllr Chris Read dismissed as “bunkum” the suggestion that inactive councillors might keep the whip for the sake of party income.

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