I read with interest the article on the front page of this week’s Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper regarding the cost of holding a by-election to fill a vacancy on Melling Parish Council.
There can be little doubt that this particular vacancy came out of unusual circumstances i.e. a Labour candidate who had won one of the 11 seats from this May’s full parish council elections decided not to take up the seat they had won on Melling PC. I wonder what changed their mind? According to the paper the winning candidate has not said why he did not take up the seat and the local Labour Party (Sefton Central Constituency) has not commented either.
The thrust of the article was the cost of holding the by-election – some £5,000 – which the parish council involved will have to pay for. The alternative way of filling a vacancy on a parish council is to co-opt a new member if no one calls for an election to be held and this is a matter I have blogged about previously. Here’s a link to my most recent relevant blog about co-options:-
My understanding is that the ensuing by-election (held last week) was won by an independent who defeated a different Labour candidate.
So there you have it. I still come down on the side of a by-election each time there’s a vacancy on a parish council because it is the best way forward for our democracy. Co-option, whilst being perfectly legal, is something for me from another era when maybe it was deemed to be OK for those who have been elected to select someone else to join them on a parish council. We would not accept sitting MP’s selecting another MP to fill a vacancy in Parliament so why is it OK for this to happen at the first tier of local democracy – our parish councils?
And by the way, it is not always the case that a by-election takes place on a parish council when an election has been called for because if only one candidate puts themselves forward they will be elected unopposed. Clearly in this case two people wanted to be on the parish council so a by-election took place. I celebrate that because the alternative, say the two potential candidates being interviewed by the already elected council to fill the vacancy, does not sit comfortably with me.