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Unitary victors will be forced to quit town seats

(January 15, 2009)

ANYONE elected to serve on the new unitary authority will face pressure to give up any seat they may hold on a town or parish council, has discovered.

Serving on both the unitary and town councils could lead to problems when councillors have to declare an interest under tight ‘Nolan Rules’ which cover standards in public life.

In Wiltshire, where area boards will need to have just two members present to be quorate at a meeting it is quite possible that four voting members of the Warminster area board could also be town councillors.

If an issue was being discussed which involved transfer of any money to the town council then all four would need to declare an interest and not vote on the item.

This scenario would lead the board without a quorum and unable to make a decision.

“We have been told about this on the Q.T. but it does seem to make some sense although it may rob some town and parish council’s of their leading members,” said Steve Dancey.

“Nicol Smith, the county solicitor in the 1980s used to say ‘if you think you have an interest then you have an interest’ and I imagine that rules post Nolan are even more tightly drawn so those elected will have to consider this matter very carefully.

“If they decide to stand down perhaps the rest of the council could do likewise as a full election could then be held at no additional marginal cost and a fresh mandate could be gained

“I thought the town council was elected in 2007 for four years and to extend the term to six years without reference to the people shows a contempt for democracy.”

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