This time it’s about the timing of a borough council election to replace one of the most popular members on the authority, the Conservative councillor Julian Stanyer and the former Borough mayor who died last month.
Normal protocol, observed voluntarily by major political parties as a mark of respect, is that no one calls for a replacement election until after the funeral of the incumbent.
This time, though, the Alliance triggered an election earlier when it had a hand in a letter demanding the ballot be called.
Town Hall staff are required by law to follow through on any such request from two members of the electorate.
Julian Stanyer represented Speldhurst & Bidborough from 2012 until he passed away on September 26 after a long illness. He had also been the Borough Mayor between 2014 and 2015.
Members of his own Conservative Party, as well as opposition Liberal Democrat and Labour members, posted tributes.
Tunbridge Wells Alliance, which came into being to stop the Calverley Grounds theatre project, set in place a chain of events calling for his replacement before the councillor’s funeral had taken place.
The Times has learnt that following Cllr Stanyer’s death, Alliance Leader Cllr David Hayward [Pembury Ward] communicated with a couple from Langton Green about how to call the election.
The pair then wrote a letter to the Council requesting the by-election be called. There is no suggestion they did anything legally wrong.
The letter, which has been seen by the Times, explains that the couple, a retired doctor and her husband, both in their 80s were ‘conscious’ of the protocol not to call the election until after a funeral, but the letter was sent anyway.
It was received by the Council on October 12. Officers held off calling the election until the last possible moment to avoid posting the election before the councillor’s funeral.
Council rules mean a by-election has to take place within 35 days of receiving a request from electors, and the last day it could have been called to meet that time frame was the day of the councillor’s public funeral service.
Cllr Stanyer, a former chartered surveyor was laid to rest at a private ceremony last Wednesday [October 20] before the public funeral service on Thursday, October 21 – the day the election was called.
The move by the Alliance is understood to have dismayed both Conservatives and the Stanyer family. Councillors from both the Lib Dems and Labour are also said to be ‘extremely unhappy’ about it.
Daughter of Cllr Stanyer, Roweena Stanyer, told the Times: “It was not ideal coming on the day of my dad’s funeral obviously. “I did receive a letter of apology from the couple concerned, but it really wasn’t ideal.”
When approached by the Times Cllr Hayward did not deny being in communication with the couple in question but refused to comment on whether the two electors were members or supporters of his party.
He would only say that the Alliance were ‘very surprised that the process of the by-election started before Julian’s funeral’.
The Speldhurst & Bidborough by-election takes place on November 25.