Lichfield District Council House

A Burntwood councillor could be disqualified if Lichfield District Council decides not to grant an extension to an attendance rule.

The position of Cllr Bernard Brown will be debated at a meeting on Tuesday (14th July).

Cllr Bernard Brown

The Labour representative for Summerfield and All Saints ward has not attended any sessions since 9th March.

A report said the councillor – who does not have an email address listed on his page on the council website – was unable to use the technology needed to continue participating in meetings during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unfortunately, Cllr Brown has not been able to attend any council or committee meetings since planning committee on 9th March.

“The reason is that he is not able to use IT equipment to attend meetings virtually.

“A formal request has therefore been made for an extension to the six month rule to be approved in this respect.”

“The council’s monitoring officer has received a request for the council to consider approving an extension to the usual six month attendance rule for Cllr Brown, enabling him to remain in office until he is able to resume normal duties.

“It is envisioned that this will be once safety guidelines from COVID-19 are fully lifted and normal meeting attendance can resume.

“If an extension was not granted, Cllr Brown would be disqualified as of 10th September.”

Report to Lichfield District Council meeting

The report, from Conservative cabinet member Cllr Angela Lax, has recommended approving the extension.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created many unforeseen issues and so may mean other councillors have similar problems in attending meetings or a second wave of the virus could create the same issues as seen now.

“To overcome this potential, it is proposed that the head of governance and performance, in consultation with the chairman of the council, be delegated to approve dispensations to the six month rule when the reason is related to the virus pandemic.”

Report to Lichfield District Council meeting

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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15 Comments

  1. If I was told to work remotely by my employer and had problems, someone would come and help. Isn’t there something similar?

    Utterly bizarre to allow that to happen for over 4 months.

  2. I think you need to look beyond this and into the full facts. Firstly, Before Covid-19 Councillor Browns attendance was 100%.
    Councils need to be diverse, have councillors of all age and Bernard is our oldest. He is still on the end of the phone; Lichfield District Council works beyond emails and you can phone every department. Also, Bernard is one of 3 Councillors to represent that ward if you need to email one then there is another two.
    Also using IT is a choice, it is not a rule, on the Councillor application page it doesn’t say “You must have the internet, your must come to online meeting in case of a pandemic”. These are exceptional times.
    Bernard is an excellent Councillor and an asset to Burntwood and Lichfield. All of his work around the area and the representation before COvid-19 is exemplary. I am sure everyone on here has had family member who they couldn’t see and was able to make them online face to face contact found that acceptable to keep them safe, being a Councillor doesn’t make that any different.
    Once Covid-19 is done and Bernard is back out and about he will carry on attending 100% of his meetings and helping the people in his ward.

  3. Darren I think you need to look beyond this and into the full facts. After Covid Councillor Brown’s attendance was 0%. Given we don’t know when any of this will be ‘done’ then we can assume his attendance will remain at 0% for the foreseeable.

    I assume he won’t be claiming four months of allowance given, based on what you’ve written, he can’t do the job until Covid-19 is done?

  4. Darren, aren’t these meetings held using Zoom? If so, and if he is still on the end of the phone as you say, then he is perfectly capable of attending those meetings via the phone number that zoom provides for every meeting.

    Has he been given the option of calling in to meetings via phone? If not, why not? If he has, why has he not joined by phone?

  5. Not sure I buy this it’s not his fault he can’t use it because he’s old line that appears to be the excuse given by Darren Ennis. Others manage it so why can’t he? Have the council not offered training? If we assume that this isn’t a new issue, then a question has to be raised about why he has not sought any training since he was elected in May? My elderly father-in-law isn’t very good with computers, but he saw how the world was moving and so he booked himself on a training session or two at the library and can now at least answer an email.

    Saying he can’t use it so he won’t use it simply doesn’t wash I’m afraid.

  6. Erica I know a lot of people who do not have computers it is not a law to have one and if need be you go to the library to use theirs that is when it is open. As for Zoom that can be done using I-phone or android. But again not everyone has one of those as they are expensive and a phone makes calls so you only need an old Nokia or similar for that.

  7. It isn’t a law no. But this man is an elected councillor. I’d expect my councillor to be able to open an email. You can’t want equality and then say age excuses him from having to have the basic skills necessary of a modern elected representative. I’m sure the tone would be very different if a 20-something councillor decided he or she didn’t fancy having to bother with emails or meetings.

  8. It seems the main issue here is that it has taken the council four months to try and find a solution. It is possible to phone into meetings like Zoom, you do not have to do so via video. The lack of support given to this councillor seems staggering. This has nothing to do with age or an individual’s IT capabilities. I have colleagues of a far younger age who are not comfortable in video meetings, but still play a full and active part in those meetings via the phone. The situation is unlikely to change for some time. The council needs to adapt more effectively than it has in this case.

  9. This case highlights perfectly the “digital divide” and should be a wake up cal to LDC that there are still some residents that can’t, won’t or are otherwise unable to use digital means of communication.
    There must be a solution, equipment issued, training given, or phone call links, help him out ! And take note that others are likewise excluded

  10. Well done Dennis sticking up for your mate. Times have changed in the last few weeks and we dont know what will be normal again. Councillors have got to get used to technology. Ridiculous to say it wasnt in his job specifications. At one time councillors were issued laptops from lichfield is this still the case ?

  11. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of people to find a way for him to join in. You can join a Zoom call with a telephone number you don’t even need a laptop. How has this been allowed to become an issue?

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