Hildenborough doesn’t have enough councillors to hold meetings

Hildenborough doesn't have enough councillors to hold meetings

The village near Tonbridge has been left with only three councillors instead of the usual 11 after the local elections on May 2 after bureaucratic issues with paperwork.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] have made the temporary appointments to make sure that the Parish Council can ‘lawfully function’ and not be ‘inquorate’.

A quorum is defined in legislation as being one third of the total number of members for a town or parish council, subject to a minimum of three councillors – so Hildenborough needs at least four to be quorate.

Now the Hildenborough ward candidates who were elected to the borough council this month, the former Mayor Mark Rhodes and newcomer Cllr Nick Foyle, have been sent in.

With five members, decisions can be made on ‘co-opting’ others to fill the remaining seats.

Pam Gow, the parish council clerk, told the Times: “The crux of the matter was that some members of the previous council were happy to continue but couldn’t get their accreditation papers to the borough council on time.

“This is because the borough council had time limits between 9am and 4pm – but our councillors had full-time jobs and couldn’t meet that requirement.”

She added: “Once we have a chairman in place – which we will have [at the meeting] on Wednesday because we will have the two nominees – we will be quorate.

“The previous councillors were all approached and most have been seeking co-option.

“A number of others contacted me to express an interest who have not served before, and they will be considered along with the others.”

Mrs Gow said there was no pressing business that the council had not been able to consider.

“No, we’ve been very well organised and we took steps to make sure that didn’t happen.”

She added that the situation had never arisen previously in the 14 years she has served as clerk.

Elections to town and parish councils take place every four years at the same time as elections to the borough council.

If the seats cannot be filled by co-option, they remain vacant until the next ballot is held.

Adrian Stanfield, TMBC’s Director of Central Services & Deputy Chief Executive, has formulated a process to make sure that such issues can be quickly resolved in future.

He said: “Whilst it is very rare indeed for a town or parish council within Tonbridge & Malling to become inquorate, it is suggested that the adoption of an approved process would allow for any future such instances to be dealt with swiftly.

Mr Stanfield explained: “Nominations for the elections were open from March 19 to April 3.

“We did not receive any complaints about any prospective candidates being unable to deliver their nomination papers during this period.

“Nomination papers have to be delivered in person, but can be handed in by the potential candidate, an agent, or someone else, often parish clerks or other people who are standing for nomination.

“We asked people to call and book an -appointment time with us, due to the large volume of nominations we take in.”

He added: “As far as we can recall, this is the first time that the borough council has made temporary appointments to a parish council in this situation.”

How to fill a hole

The Monitoring Officer, who ensures the borough council maintains correct standards, will offer temporary positions in the following order until a quorum has been achieved:

1 Borough councillors for the ward in which the parish is locate

2 Borough councillors for adjacent ward

3 County councillors for the division in which the parish is located

4 In consultation with Group Leaders [leaders of the political parties represented on TMBC] other councillors will be considered including those from adjacent parishes or towns

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