Cllr Lis Burnett, (Labour St Augustines) Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council has queried the cost involved in holding a council by-election to replace a disgraced former colleague Cllr Rob Curtis who resigned from his Gibbonsdown (Barry) seat at the end of August .
At the beginning of 2015 Cllr Curtis was – like Cllr Burnett – a member of the Vale of Glamorgan’s ruling ‘cabinet’ – the small cabal which actually runs the Vale Council and takes all the major decisions.
Curtis – an electrician by profession – stepped down from his £30,000 a year ‘cabinet’ position citing pressure of work early last year – but retained his ordinary salaried seat on the council .
Only later did it emerge he was facing trial at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court after an incident involving a 17-year-old girl on a birdwatching expedition on the island of Skomer off the Pembrokeshire Coast. In May 2015 a charge of sexual assault was dropped and Curtis admitted common assault – but despite being urged to quit by Cllr Shirley Hodges (Plaid Barry Town Council) did not budge from his ordinary councillor’s seat on the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Curtis’s case was referred to the Ombudsman for Wales – who, on 22 February 2016, referred the matter to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.
The Adjudication Panel’s “Case Tribunal” found by “unanimous decision” that Cllr Curtis has “failed to comply with the Vale of Glamorgan Council Code of Conduct ” and he was suspended. He resigned at the end of August this year leaving a so-called “casual vacancy” in the Vale Council’s Gibbonsdown Ward.
The rules dictate that at least two Vale electors needed submit a formal request to trigger a by-election – and that has now happened.
The by-election has been duly scheduled for November 3 – but now, on Twitter, Cllr Lis Burnett has publicly queried the necessity of holding a by-election at all – arguing that the next local authority elections are due to be held in May next year in “6 mths” .
She asserts that holding by-election now – rather than waiting for the main elections in May – will cost the council £5,000.
In fact none of the councillors on the Vale Council has a current electoral mandate because in 2012 they were elected originally for what was only a 4-year term and had their terms of office arbitrarily extended by the Welsh Labour Government for an extra year – which ends in May 2017.