HPT has received some enquiries as to the procedure for co-option etc of new town/parish councillors.
This has arisen because of the failures of New Mills Ollersett and Thornsett wards to field sufficient candidates for the upcoming New Mills town council elections on 7 May 2015.
This will result in six casual vacancies on this council - one in Thornsett and five in Ollersett.
Here is what happens in this situation:
First, the casual vacancies have to be advertised etc, and the electorate given the opportunity to call by-elections for the vacancies.
If ten electors of the relevant ward(s) call for an election rather than co-option by the council, then that is a by-election. It is then organised by High Peak Borough Council's Returning Officer on behalf of the town.
If by-elections are not called, then co-option of new councillors is undertaken by the town council.
The following is what NALC's Governance Toolkit for Parish & Town Councils (page 103 in the 2009 edition (v3)) says about the procedure to be adopted by a council in the even of co-option:
"Voting by Council on Casual Vacancy ('Co-Option')
In the case of co-option the following procedure should be followed:-
(a) Notice of the intention to co-opt to the vacancy should be given in the agenda for the meeting of the Parish (Town) Council;
(b) When the item is reached, the Chair should call for nominations, which should be duly proposed and seconded;
(c) When all the nominations have been received a vote should be taken. It is usual for the candidate's names to be put in alphabetical order;
(d) The person co-opted must receive a majority of the votes of those Councillors present and voting at the meeting where the co-option takes place. Where there are more than two candidates for one vacancy, this rule means that a person must get a majority of votes over all the other candidates. Thus where candidate A receives four votes, and candidates B and C each receive two, A is not elected because he has the same number of votes as B and C put together and does not have a majority over their combined votes. Where there are more than two candidates it is desirable to eliminate the candidate with the least number of votes, so that the final vote is between two candidates only;
(e) After the vote has been taken, the Chair should declare the candidate who received the highest number of votes duly elected;
(f) The person elected must make a declaration of acceptance of office before, or at, the first meeting of the Parish Council following his election in the presence of a member of the Parish Council or the Proper Officer of the Parish Council. The declaration is then retained in the parish records. The person elected will need also to undertake to abide by the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct.
There is nothing preventing Councillors from approaching persons to offer themselves for co-option or even advertising for applicants. Applicants might also be invited to provide a written “application” or invited to speak to the council prior to any voting. If such arrangements are to be applied, they should be carefully drafted and provided to applicants. It is imperative that all applicants are treated alike in order that the arrangements are seen as fair. Applicants under such arrangements must not undertake any lobbying."