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Uncertainty over empty local authority seats

Wed, 05 Aug 2020

By Aaron Ibanez - Local Democracy Reporter
By Aaron Ibanez - Local Democracy Reporter
Local authorities with unfilled seats have been asked to make up their numbers as soon as is ‘reasonably practicable’, by the government.
In a letter to the Island’s commissioners, the Department of Infrastructure says it’s to ensure democratic representation, but some feel it will come at an unnecessary cost to the ratepayer.
The local authority elections were to due take place in April this year, but because of the coronavirus outbreak they were pushed back until April 2021.
This meant that current serving commissioners could remain in post for another year.
As result of these changes, some local authorities say it’s created uncertainty for them around how they should go about filling any vacancies, should they arise.
In his first direct contact with the Island’s local authorities, Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker set out what he calls a ‘pragmatic way forward’ for those not at full membership.
It’s understood there are nine posts to be filled, these include Malew and Michael, after the resignation of members between November 2019 and May 2020, others include Ramsey and Santon.
Another local authority with a vacancy in one of its wards, is the recently merged Rushen and Arbory.
Chair Jane Glover says her constituents don’t feel ‘underrepresented’.
As part of the merger agreement, the joint Rushen and Arbory authority was to slash its membership from ten to six following the local elections, now scheduled for next year.
For Mrs Glover, holding a by-election at a cost of £3,000 for someone to fill a term of just seven months, isn’t a sensible use of ratepayers money, especially at time when budgets are tight after the virus.
The DoI has advised local authorities they ‘must of course manage their own affairs and make their own decisions’, adding that they should consider any legal advice ahead of issuing any notice.


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