Posted: 22.06.20 at 21:45 by Nick Hudson
ATHERSTONE’S new civic leader has been told she is “not allowed” to serve the town for two years after a misinterpretation of Government rules.
Town council mayor and chairman Denise Clews accepted the advice of a monitoring authority in a dramatic climbdown at the monthly ‘virtual’ meeting.
Councillor Clews was only weeks into her double term when Nub News revealed last week that the Warwickshire Association of Local Councils had intervened over the original decision at May’s annual meeting.
Last month coronavirus was given as a substantive reason Cllr Clews was being installed in both roles for a 24-month stint.
The decision – opposed by Labour members on the authority – was voted through by the Tory majority in view of the “present situation” regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first ‘virtual’ gathering in the authority’s history – with all the action relayed courtesy of Zoom collaboration – produced a number of political divergences of opinion on how the town council should be led in the coming years including whether to “reunite” its two leading roles.
Central member Jacky Chambers pushed for the status quo to be maintained with a separate chairman and mayor which has been in situ for the year 2019/20.
Councillor Chambers felt the move which saw Councillor David Wright as chairman and Councillor Carl Gurney as mayor last year had “worked extremely well in terms of the distribution of workload and the ways both those roles were fulfilled”.
After Cllr Clews was voted in, the town council received correspondence from the WALC explaining the Government passed Covid-19 regulations which gave parish councils the opportunity to not have an annual meeting this year and continue with their existing chairman and mayor for a second 12-month spell until May 2021.
But WALC county officer John Crossling told Nub News: “If a council decided to hold a virtual annual meeting then it would be for the normal 12-month period, so they would need to have an annual meeting in May 2021 as normal.”
Councillor Sara Bishop, the new Labour group opposition leader on the town council, told the June meeting: “We can only vote a new chairman in for one year.
“Next year we have to vote again.”
Accepting the halving of her term of office with good grace, Cllr Clews said: “We are not allowed to do it.”
Tying up loose ends, town clerk Odette Ghent said: “There will be an election at the next annual meeting.
“Whoever is voted in, it doesn’t matter – but they just have to do the right process.”