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No action taken after councillor doesn’t attend meetings for six months

PUBLISHED: 08:25 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:02 20 January 2020

Councillors at a North Walsham Town Council in 2019. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Councillors at a North Walsham Town Council in 2019. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

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A town councillor who did not attend meetings for more than six months will not have any action taking against him, but the council’s policies have changed to stop such behaviour in future.

Mal Gray, town councillor for the West Ward on North Walsham Town Council, had a number of internal complaints raised after he did not attend committee meetings for six months in a row.

And questions were raised by fellow councilllors over his position, when he did not attend a development and amenities meeting on November 12.

Members of the committee unanimously agreed that "continual non-attendance was not acceptable".

The minutes said: "No apologies for absence were received from Mr Gray making non-attendance for six consecutive months and, therefore, was marked as absent."

It has now emerged that the matter was referred by that committee to the next full council meeting on November 26, where they put forward a request to remove Mr Gray as a member.

However, in the full council meeting, which Mr Gray did attend, it was decided no retrospective action should be taken. However, amendments were made to the council's policy over non-attendance, which mean that should a councillor miss six months of meetings again - they would be removed from the council.

The minutes of the full council meeting said: "Councillors not attending any meeting of council or committee for a six-month period will cease to be a member of the council, unless their apologies have been accepted.

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"Any councillor missing three consecutive meetings will be removed from the relevant committee and a new member will be elected in the following council meeting."

Mr Gray, whose role is voluntary for which he receives no remuneration, had an overall attendance record of 51pc in meetings from January to December 11, 2019. Out of the 49pc of meetings that he did not attend, none of the absences were formally flagged up beforehand.

According to the town council's website, he sits on the planning, finance and grants, development and amenities, media and information and youth advisory committees.

Mr Gray said: "The issue relates purely to the developments and amenities committee. I have not attended that committee as there was an ongoing complaint made by one of the councillors of that committee against myself.

"The committee of which the chair was fully aware and I felt that it was inappropriate to attend those meetings whilst the confidential investigation was ongoing, I have since been cleared of any wrong doing.

"It is unfortunate that despite the complaint against me being dismissed by the independent body at NNDC that this course of action was then taken.

"The vote to remove me from the developments and amenities committee was based on erroneous procedural advice and was not minuted in the final version.

"The draft version on the website were amended at the committee meeting this week to confirm this matter's reference to the December full council meeting, where it was totally rejected due to it being procedurally incorrect.

"The council's procedures have since been updated to prevent those procedures being misinterpreted and incorrectly applied in the future."

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