UKIP abstentions in illness absence vote cause a stir at first Shoreham Centre meeting

Ellen Parkin, daughter of Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin, lowered the gavel at the first meeting of the council at the new Shoreham Centre on Thursday SUS-151026-102903001
Ellen Parkin, daughter of Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin, lowered the gavel at the first meeting of the council at the new Shoreham Centre on Thursday SUS-151026-102903001

AN ADUR District Council trio’s abstention in a vote to stop a seriously ill councillor losing her seat was ‘appalling’ and showed ‘no compassion’, the leader has argued.

Buckingham ward councillor Debbie Kennard has not attended a council meeting since May because of poor health and is approaching the six month limit which can see councillors removed from post for non-attendance.

Councillors approved her absence on Thursday, which will allow her to continue in her role when she has recovered.

But there were audible gasps when three UKIP councillors - Geoff Patmore, Lyn Phillips and David Lambourne - declined to support the approval by abstaining in the vote.

The trio said they were simply following the law.

Leader Neil Parkin said: “I am very appalled. They had no compassion. The poor woman is seriously ill and they couldn’t support her having six months’ extra.”

Under the Local Government Act, any councillor who has not attended a meeting in six months will lose their seat, ‘unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority’.

Councillors in Worthing unanimously supported Lib Dem Norah Fisher when her illness led to long-term absence in a similar vote last year.

Defending his position, Mr Lambourne, councillor for Mash Barn, said: “I do sympathise with her, of course I do.

“She is ill, but under the council rules, after six months you are barred and supposing I didn’t appear for months and said I had an operation, do you think they would keep me on? I don’t think it would happen.

“All they have done now is create a precedent to allow any councillor to come up with an excuse and would have to keep that person on.”

Widewater councillor Geoff Patmore said he ‘didn’t want to break the law’ and was undecided as to the legal implications of the vote.

Cokeham ward member Mrs Phillips dismissed Mr Parkin’s comments as ‘a load of old hogwash’, stating it was ‘appalling’ to suggest she lacked compassion.

She said she was aware of the council rules on such issues but felt it was an ‘emotive’ issue, so wouldn’t vote against it in the circumstances.

Mr Patmore said: “Obviously I have sympathy but the law stipulates otherwise, so I abstained as I felt I would be breaking the law.

“It was no reflection on the individual, it was a reflection on the law.”

Had the council not supported the extension, a by-election could have been triggered just months before Mrs Kennard was due to stand for re-election.

Her ward duties have been fulfilled by councillor Emma Evans in her absence.

The remaining councillors present voted in favour of approving her absence up until the May election.

- Mr Parkin’s daughter, Ellen, lowered the gavel to mark the first Adur council meeting at the new Shoreham Centre on Thursday. See page nine for more coverage from the meeting.