Since the last full New Mills town council meeting (12 September 2016) all the correspondence and argument into High Peak Transparency has been about one subject: the horrible mess that the council has got itself into about the empty council seats that were left unfilled at the last local elections.
Those local elections were held in May 2015. They left six council seats unfilled out of twelve seats in total. As at the date of this article, the council has either two vacancies or three vacancies. The number depends on whether David Lamb is co-opted onto the council.
At the 12 September meeting, a report was presented to the council. The text of the report has been published here on HPT a few days ago. The audio of the part of the council meeting dealing with the report is likewise on HPT.
If one accepts that the key issue now is for the New Mills town council to put all this horrible mess behind it and move forward positively, then here is a road map:
1. Lynne Allen is a councillor. Cllr Allen was co-opted by the council. it was done in public. Her co-option by the council is specifically and clearly recorded in the audio of the meeting. The council resolution co-opting her is publicly recorded in writing, in the minutes of the council meeting.
2. The council resolves in its next meeting to appoint the 'floating' councillors to the wards they applied for. If they didn't apply for a specific ward then the 10 October 2016 council meeting can decide which ward, in consultation with the councillor concerned.
This would require a carefully-worded standalone agenda item, just for this one issue of 'warding' the known councillors.
3. That only leaves the issue of David Lamb. At the next council meeting a vote should be held whether to adopt the report recommendation and co-opt David Lamb. Or not.
(Note: a ward needs to be specified for David Lamb's co-option vote, on the same basis as the wards were earlier specified in the vote that 'warded' the floating councillors.)
4. Whatever that David Lamb co-option council vote decides, that will be the end of that issue. There cannot be a tie, because in the event of a tie, the Chair of the council has a second, casting, vote.
In the interests of transparency and simplicity, this specific 'whether to co-opt David Lamb onto the council' decision should have its own carefully-worded standalone agenda item
If David Lamb is not co-opted at the 10 October NMTC meeting, there will be three vacancies on the council that must be filled.
If David Lamb is co-opted, there will be two vacancies that must be filled.
There is no need for any councillor to resign over the result of this decision, whatever that result may be. If one or other councillor does resign, then that is their decision. It is essential that this council now moves on positively from this mess.
Filling the remaining vacancies lawfully
These two or three vacancies will then be filled in the way specified by law:
The council's proper officer notifies the Borough Returning Officer of the vacancies and the wards that have the vacancies;
Notices go up inviting any ten electors to call a by-election if they want to;
If ten electors call a by-election to fill a vacancy then a by-election is held. If not, then the council can co-opt the required new member(s).