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A Burntwood councillor who has been unable to attend meetings because he cannot use technology has not taken up offers of training, Lichfield District Council has confirmed.

Cllr Bernard Brown

Cllr Bernard Brown’s position will be discussed at a meeting of the local authority this evening (14th July).

He has been unable to attend any meetings online since the coronavirus crisis began in March.

The use of IT is not a requirement for people to serve as an elected member, but if councillors do not back a plan to extend the six month rule for non-attendance today, Cllr Brown could be disqualified from the role in September.

Lichfield District Council confirmed to Lichfield Live that advice and training had been offered to Cllr Brown but he had not taken it up.

A report on the issue to be heard at tonight’s meeting says:

“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.”

Report on Cllr Bernard Brown to Lichfield District Council

“Using IT is a choice, it is not a rule”

Cllr Brown – who does not have an email address listed on the local authority’s website – has been receiving print outs of all meeting papers since his election, with the council confirming other members were receiving them by email.

His Labour colleague, Cllr Darren Ennis, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had created “exceptional” issues for Cllr Brown who usually accessed digital services in other ways before the coronavirus crisis.

“Bernard does get emails – he does this at his family’s homes and at the council building.

“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.

“What if a the person is brilliant in the community but doesn’t want a digital footprint? To be a councillor do they have to give up that belief?

“If a person cannot afford the internet or the devices they should also not be allowed to apply?

“Putting technological limits in will restrict who can be a councillor – and I think that is wrong.”

Cllr Darren Ennis, Lichfield District Council

Members of Lichfield District Council had previously had access to an allowance of £430 per year for technology, phone lines and broadband.

But a decision was made in 2015 to remove the separate payment and allow it to be amalgamated into the overall basic allowance for councillors – a figure which stood at £4,214 a year per councillor last year.

“The allowance is sufficient to buy a basic tablet”

Cllr Joanne Grange, an independent member of the council, questioned Cllr Ennis’ view on the affordability of technology.

“I’m not sure the financial argument is valid – there used to be a separate allowance paid for IT, but this was wrapped up into councillor allowances to provide the funds for councillors to be connected.

“The first month of the allowance is sufficient to buy a basic tablet and more than sufficient in subsequent months to cover internet connectivity.”

Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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10 Comments

  1. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. However good at a job you are, the world moves on. Constant change happens. Using IT is NOT a choice when it’s the best, most efficient and (in a pandemic) ONLY way to do your job effectively.

    Turn on the laptop, click the link in the email, do the Zoom meeting. It would take 10 minutes of IT training.

    Not attending any meetings for months on end when you’re getting an allowance for it is both lazy and obstructive. In some companies it would be a dismissable offence.

  2. I find it unbelievable that in 2020 this council member is not able to access the Internet. I wonder what would be the impact if all council members were so backward thinking?

  3. Depending on where you live you might not have internet or mobile connection . I have a friend who lives near Worksop and has no Mobile connection where he lives and the Internet is very very slow. Where I live outside Lichfield connection has improved from about 1 meg but since lockdown and people working from home my connection drops in and out all the time. We have not all got cable etc

  4. Naming Councillor Brown as ” backward ” is a disgrace. He should seek an apology immediately. In this current climate, where all age groups and backgrounds are equal, surely such use of infantile language should be made an example of.

  5. Interesting to see you all jumping on the bandwagon without knowing the full facts , the author of this artical should be ashamed of this themselves . The implications for the individual and the close family are horrendous. The person has received no monies whilst covid is in effect and cannot leave the house or receive visitors due to the fact he is in isolation. Discrimination of an 82 year old man for not using IT is both pathetic and prejudice and anyone on here slating him should step up and go for election and see how they fare

  6. Its the council you need to be having a go at jay as theyre the ones who published a report saying he couldn’t use IT and then have said they offered him training. You stand for election then you gotta expect people to ask questions about you. Comes with the territory

  7. Being abused by people he doesnt even know and being accused of fraud does not come with the territory im afraid, he joined the council to help not be bullied and this platform has given these people a way of doing this

  8. The council wrote a report about him saying he couldn’t use IT. Does the fault not lie with them? Shouldn’t this be reported if its covered in a document produced by the council? That’s a slippery slope to start going down because who then decides what the taxpayer should and shouldn’t know?!??!

  9. None of that excuses the abuse he has received for not doing anything wrong and now having to resign from a post that he loves and has always carried out well

  10. Poor guy. I do feel for him. However, if he was interested in keeping his job then he would have embraced the last 30 years of technological advancements and learnt how to harness technology to help his constituents. It’s an unfortunate example of all councils in England – elderly councillors stuck in their antiquated ways of running things like they’ve been doing for many decades without change.

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