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Councillors clash after tax payer is left footing the bill for £13,000 Burntwood Town Council by-election where only 827 votes were cast

Councillors in Burntwood have clashed after it emerged a by-election where less than 830 votes were cast had cost local tax payers almost £13,000.

Old Mining College Centre

Old Mining College Centre

The money was spent on the vote in the Boney Hay and Central ward in July 2017, which saw Labour’s Rob Birch secure his seat on Burntwood Town Council by 530 votes to 297.

His victory came following the resignation of Conservative member Natasha Pullen after she had won a seat on Staffordshire County Council.

Cllr Rob Birch

Cllr Rob Birch

But Cllr Birch had originally been earmarked to take the Chasetown seat following the resignation of Labour member Keith Willis-croft, after co-opting was used to fill the vacancy.

Cllr Diane Evans

Cllr Diane Evans

Labour say the Tories reneged on agreement to allow their candidate to fill the seat won by the party at the local elections after they chose to vote in Cllr Norma Bacon – a member of their own party – instead. The move meant any plan for co-option went out of the window when the Boney Hay and Central seat became available.

The result was a total cost to the taxpayer of £12,924.66 to run the by election – or more than £15 per vote cast.

Cllr Diane Evans, leader of the Labour group, said the actions of the Conservatives in going back on their word had cost the tax payer dearly, with the bill amounting to almost the same amount of grant aid the council gives out to local community groups.

“What a deplorable situation when this money could have far better been spent on good causes in the town,” she said.

“The Conservatives here have only themselves to blame and this is the cost of their political games. They should all hang their heads in shame.

“Cllr Birch is an excellent councillor and has made a real impact in the few short months since he was elected. I am proud to have him as a colleague. His attendance and commitment are exemplary, contrasting sharply with the invisibility and poor attendance rates of the previous incumbent.”

Cllr Doug Pullen

Cllr Doug Pullen

Cllr Doug Pullen, who now leads the Conservative-controlled council, voted to co-opt Cllr Birch with the rest of his party colleagues backing Cllr Bacon in the initial co-opting ballot.

But he says the decision to leave the tax payer footing a £13,000 bill was entirely down to Labour.

“This is a staggeringly hypocritical statement from them,” he said.

“When a councillor resigns there are two options to elect a new councillor – either a by-election is called or a councillor is co-opted at no cost. Labour called the election before a co-option took place.

“Labour knew there would be a cost associated with it, which is set by Lichfield District Council.

“I have no issue with democracy running its course, but Labour can’t ask for something and then complain that it costs money.”

But Cllr Birch said winning the seat said he believed “political shenanigans” had brought about the costly by-election.

He sadi: “I’m proud to have won the by-election and to represent the people of Boney Hay and Central Ward.

“But I am pretty disgusted that these totally avoidable costs have been incurred, simply because of Tory political shenanigans.

“I will ensure though that the residents get the representation they deserve and I work closely with Labour colleagues in the ward and with all colleagues, regardless of party politics at the council.”

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

5 Comments

  1. Cllr Rob Birch

    4th June, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Unfortunately Cllr Pullen does seem to miss the point being made. Whilst I am grateful to Cllr Pullen for his support during the initial co-option vote, he did so as the only member of the Conservative group that voted to respect both the will of the electorate and the initial agreement made between the two parties. His colleagues on the Tory group voted in defiance of both to replace a democratically elected Labour Councillor with another one of their own, ignoring the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.

    As Lichfield Live followers will remember the Tories broke their agreement and instead placed their very own Norma Bacon to a Labour held seat without a democratic mandate. Cllr Pullen’s wife subsequently resigned her seat in Boney Hay and Central after being elected to the more lucrative County Council, thus creating a second vacancy. Despite what Cllr Pullen would have everyone believe, the election wasn’t called by the Labour group, but by local electorates for the ward. There was obviously the expectation from Cllr Pullen’s cohort that the Labour Group should sit by silent as the electorate were denied their chance to redress the balance by democratic means a second time. There probably wouldn’t have been such a public apatite for an election had democracy have been respected in the first place by Cllr Pullen’s group. As the electors called for an election, it was incumbent upon the Labour Party to engage in the democratic process and give the public a chance to have a say.

    The result of the election was a clear vote of confidence in Labour, with the electorate returning a Labour Councillor to a Conservative seat by a significant majority.

    If the original agreement for Chasetown had been respected and a Labour Councillor placed back in a Labour seat, then it is doubtful that the electorate in Boney Hay and Central would have objected to a second co-option and the costs of the election could have been avoided. The balance was redressed by popular vote in spite of the Tories best efforts, but at a significant and unnecessary cost in the long run.

    Democracy clearly costs more under the Tories

  2. Rob

    5th June, 2018 at 7:14 am

    “ignoring the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.”
    Seems to be quite a lot of this sort of thing going on lately.

  3. Darryl Godden

    5th June, 2018 at 7:56 am

    @ Cllr. Birch

    Thanks for the explanation.

    @ Rob

    You’re comparing the election of a councillor with a multi-faceted option to leave the largest trading block and regulatory alignment in history? Go you.

  4. Nodge

    5th June, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I’m with Cllr. Birch, with the exception of Cllr. Pullen the Tories in Burntwood have shown nothing but contempt for their Labour colleagues and indeed the electorate. Truly just looking after their own, forgetting the people who they represent.

  5. Steve Norman

    5th June, 2018 at 9:28 am

    An election happens only if more than one candidate is nominated to stand for election.

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