Ramsgate councillor removed from district council after 6 month non-attendance at meetings due to covid concerns

Liz Green has been removed from her Thanet council seat over attendance rules

A long-serving Labour councillor has been disqualified from her role at Thanet District Council for not attending in-person meetings over a six-month period, which she says is due to serious health concerns.

Liz Green had been on the district council for nearly 19 years, most recently as member for Ramsgate’s Nethercourt ward where she lives. She says that despite feeling unable to attend the council chamber in Margate due to Covid concerns, she had continued to attend virtual meetings and deal with residents’ enquiries as normal.

However, Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 states that a member of a local authority loses office if they do not attend a meeting of council or committee that they are a member of at least once in any six-month period. The council can consider a reason for the failure to attend – and give the councillor an extension to the period of non-attendance before action is taken – but this must be before the six month period expires.

Liz, who has also previously served as a county councillor for Ramsgate, had been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable during the pandemic.

She said: “The council chamber is a cramped environment and at least one councillor believes that they caught Covid when attending a meeting there in the autumn.

“It has been a privilege to serve the people of Ramsgate over so many years and I am extremely disappointed by what has happened, but I haven’t neglected my duties. I simply had to exercise proper caution about my health.”

Liz was elected to represent Nethercourt in the 2019 election and would have been expected to carry out those duties until the next district election in 2023.

Labour group leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “It seems ridiculous that a hardworking and experienced councillor has effectively been removed from the council for following the government’s own Covid guidelines, and the specific and personal medical advice she had received.

“Formal public meetings are important but only a small part of the work of any councillor and we have all had to adapt during Covid, but it seems the law has not.

“The council knew that Liz was classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. She attended in-person meetings when it was safe to do so last summer, but when the council moved them back into the council chamber and the Covid situation deteriorated again she took the view, based on medical advice, that the personal risk was too great. That’s what the guidance says she should do: exercise caution about being in crowded indoor spaces.

“This is not a case of an absentee councillor who has not been serving her residents, it’s quite the reverse. Indeed, the government refused to extend the previous Covid dispensation to allow councillors to hold formal meetings online after May 2021, which is what has created the problem.

“A by-election in these circumstances is a waste of public money. If that’s the law then the law is an ass.”

Nethercourt has two ward councillor seats at the district authority. Cllr Tony Ovenden is the remaining ward councillor. A by-election will need to be held to fill the vacant position.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council stopped holding virtual meetings on 7 May 2021 when the legislation allowing virtual meetings expired. All council meetings after that date have been in person.

“A councillor must attend at least one meeting of which s/he is a member in a six month period, in accordance with section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972. Cllr Green is a member of full Council and a member of the Licensing Board. She last attended a Licensing Board meeting on 15 July 2021 and therefore the six month period without her attending any other meeting ended on 15 January 2022.

“If the council received a request for an extension during those six months it would have considered the reasons for her absence and any extension to the six month period. Unfortunately, the law does not allow retrospective approval of the reasons for absence and an extension of time.

“The council will declare the vacancy at a meeting planned to take place on Thursday 10 February.”

48 Comments

  1. well the answer is to stand again assuming she wants to and for TDC to understand that those with health issues are better served by understanding rather than enforcement

    • Yes – I agree – if Liz Green is then re-elected then it will be a victory of democracy over autocracy and bureaucracy.

  2. I find it especially hurtful that an ex Labour breaches confidentiality to gloat over this.
    Who in TDC is leaking information I wonder

  3. FFS is this the way TDC treat medically vulnerable councillors ?? Given everything that has gone on the last two years it’s not unreasonable to avoid meetings in a closed room. I wonder how TDC would feel if she attended, caught covid and died. Shame on whoever’s responsible

  4. I remember the Tories had a TDC councillor who lived in Panama.

    He was not dismissed, he resigned. As it is now as it was then, one rule for them the rest of us do as we are told.

  5. This is disgraceful! We’re in a pandemic and the council should have taken every precaution to protect its staff and councillors. Is this what we want for sick, disabled and vulnerable members of our community — ignore medical advice and expose yourself to infection?

  6. Once again civil servants hold elected members of all parties in contempt this should start with the top down elected members should be protected during a Pandemic such as this similar to the contempt for PM’s and parliament they hold them the same way they are employees who should be removed from their positions to much power to there heads.

  7. Health is more important than being a Councillor. However, Cllr Rick Everitt is the Leader of the Labour Group. His list of gripes does not conceal the fact that it was his responsibility to set out the extenuating circumstances for consideration, in advance of sneaking the Councillor into this week’s meeting to sign in as attended to save the Labour Councillor and thereby his numbers. Two own goals, one to not open discussions in a timely manner and two miss-calculating 6 months especially whilst TDC is under scrutiny. There’s a lot of this kind of incompetence about in politics at the moment. I bet Sir Keir Starmer will be impressed, not!

      • When her six months were up from her last attended meeting in July 2021. Sneaked in as she attended a meeting in a belated attempt to not get disqualified, which is not mentioned by Cllr Rick Everitt. If she felt she could attend that meeting then she probably could have attended the others. She may genuinely not want to continue as a Councillor but has been coerced by the Leader of the Labour Group and possibly her husband Cllr David Green. That is my opinion, however, her attendance was witnessed by other attendees at the O&S meeting. There were many things, legal, that could have been done in advance. I am sorry to say the Labour Group Leader seems to have failed again!

  8. As a vulnerable person myself I find it very unsettling that this matter has come to such position. If the only sane solution is a byelection then she should be unopposed. Nonetheless, TDC should have been able to ensure this matter didn’t occur.

    • It was up to the Councillors to organise this and they didn’t. You can’t blame the officers for this one!
      Democratically anyone who is eligible to stand for the seat should be allowed to do so. Favouritism is another form of corruption.

  9. Disgusting decision. Remote attendance should be fine and we should be modernising some of these antiquated rules. We need to bring British politics into the modern world and make it accessible for people outside the usual “Eton” elitist sloths we currently have.

    • In this instance, TDC had no choice. None of the appeals processes was instigated by the Labour Party. Sadly it is the Councillors who have created this sorry mess.

    • What vote are you talking about Marva? None is required if a Councillor fails to attend a meeting in 6 months, it’s the law! If you don’t believe me look it up for yourself. I did!

      • But if there was a possibility of discussing “extenuating circumstances for consideration”, then there must have been also a possibility of allowing Ms Green to remain as a councillor (if she wanted to). So I assume, in that case, there would be a vote.

        • Your initial comment made the assumption that there had been a vote to disqualify Liz Green. Now you are suggesting something else. If you read all that I have said in the comments to this story, you’d perhaps understand why the fault is with two Councillors from the Labour Party and no one else. Seriously you need a proposal or a motion before you get to a vote.

  10. Odd one this, as someone who was also instructed by the government to stay at home due to being on the clinically extremely vulnerable list. It spent the feb and march bored out of my head. Than the government said we should go back to work so of I went. I couldnt work from home.

    All the time I was at home I felt nervous that my partner and kids were going to work as normal and than coming home. So how safe was I ?.

    You would have thought a councillor could attend meetings by other means like by laptop etc. I get the feeling the more to this is. If there isnt than its seems very petty to throw out a voted in councillor with health concerns in a pandemic.

  11. However, Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 states that a member of a local authority loses office if they do not attend a meeting of council or committee that they are a member of at least once in any six-month period. The council can consider a reason for the failure to attend – and give the councillor an extension to the period of non-attendance before action is taken – but this must be before the six month period expires.

    I am missing something she DID attend by zoom or whatever it’s called. Nowhere does it say in the above statement say “attend in person”

    • Correct, this law should have been waived due to possible dangerous working conditions! Oh! Wait a minute could she have gone to a party with Boris and his mates at No 10, or doesn’t that count?

  12. A TDC councillor has written to the CEO & party leaders re this unjust situation of putting vulnerable people at risk. Hopefully they will address it for a positive outcome.

    • What, break the rules, like our Prime Minister?
      Would you expect someone to be let off from speeding because they sneezed causing an additional depression of the accelerator? Would the DWP stop your money if you forgot to fulfil a requirement by a certain date?
      We are talking about experienced local politicians here who failed to follow the codes of practice inherent in their legal obligations as Councillors.
      If they can’t do this properly what else are they bodging – oh, hang on!

      • Health & safety issues involving a clinically extremely vulnerable person with diminished immunity during a pandemic that has cost the lives of @ 175,000 & still >1000 deaths a week. These are exceptional times. TDC have a duty of care towards those who enter the council offices. Johnson just arranged parties {allegedly}

        • The decision to extend Liz Green’s attendance was entirely the responsibility of the Councillor’s who should have proposed motions for consideration and allowed the full council to vote on the matter before the six months was up. And the Council does have a duty of care, but the Government ended shielding once the vaccines came on stream. The anxiety associated with being fearful of contracting the virus is understandable and withdrawing from face to face meetings would resolve this.

  13. Well said, Clare! I nominate you for our councillor on Nethercourt. The present & previous incumbents have done nothing to improve the lives of residents. We never hear a peep from them!

    • The Local Government Act 1972 states that when a council member fails to attend any meeting for six consecutive months, from the date of her last attendance, she ceases to be a member of the authority, unless the council accepts a reason for the failure to attend before the six month period expires.
      She must also have failed to attend virtual, zoom, meetings too.
      But, why did she, or her Labour group not inform TDC before the six months were up?

    • Thank you Fran! I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t. It’s a pity others didn’t accept their limitations.

  14. The article states she was attending virtual meetings, so where is the “in person” requirement stated?

    • It has been mentioned several times already Linda. Zoom meetings but when and how many? Not in the last 6 months that’s for sure and not for TDC!

  15. Some get ousted for the wrong religion in Government so this is no surprise from a Tory Council – Maybe the wrong colour nickers?

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