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A by-election to replace a Burntwood councillor who resigned cannot take place until May 2021 at the earliest, Lichfield District Council has confirmed.
Lichfield District Council said Cllr Bernard Brown, Labour ward member for Summerfield and All Saints, resigned due to “negative comments made on social media”.
It came after a request had been made to extend the six-month non-attendance rule, with a report from the local authority revealing he did not use or have access to the internet in order to attend online meetings.
Although councillors agreed to the extension, Cllr Brown opted to resign – but due to the Coronavirus Act 2020, no by-election can be held until May 2021.
Christie Tims, monitoring officer for Lichfield District Council, said:
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“I am sorry the report prompted this online response and for the distress this has caused Cllr Brown and his family.
“However, the report to full council was the only way we could seek the dispensation, and the reason needed to be given in the public domain.
“All members recognised this was an exceptional circumstance and for this reason granted the dispensation along with delegated authority to protect any member whose absence is as a direct result of the coronavirus.”Christie Tims, Lichfield District Council
The monitoring officer said some the criticism of Cllr Brown had been “disappointing”.
“Use of technology, while an advantage, is not a specified requirement for anyone standing for election, and it is disappointing that Cllr Brown has been criticised publicly.
“Many of the comments are incorrect assumptions and do not take into account the work we have done to support councillors in their roles.
“The fact that Cllr Brown could not use the internet or dial-in over the phone to meetings, and until last week was shielding so was unable to accept visitors and support, is the only reason this request was made.
“In every other respect he did and would have continued to carry out his role just as effectively were it not for the pandemic.
“I can also confirm that my team has worked with Cllr Brown and other members of the council to access virtual committee meetings since we started holding meetings in this way in May.
“All options were discussed with Cllr Brown including additional support and training -subject to COVID-19 restrictions – IT provision and dialling in to meetings using a telephone were offered before he chose to request a dispensation.
“I am deeply saddened that this necessary process as a result of the pandemic has resulted in Cllr Brown’s resignation. I thank him for his service and wish him well.”Christie Tims, Lichfield District Council