Pensioner, 91, is kicked off parish council after 50 years

Pensioner, 91, is kicked off parish council after 50 years

April 22, 2021

Pensioner, 91, is kicked off parish council after 50 years for failing to attend Zoom meetings during lockdown – because he doesn’t have a computer

  • Dennis Baxter was disqualified from Strensall Parish Council along with another
  • He doesn’t have computer and so unable to attend Zoom meetings in lockdown 
  • Rules state councillors who don’t attend meetings for six months disqualified

Dennis Baxter, 91, had served on Strensall Parish Council for more than 50 years

A long-serving pensioner has been kicked off a parish council for failing to attend Zoom meetings during lockdown – because he doesn’t have a computer. 

Strensall Parish Council, in North Yorkshire, has disqualified Dennis Baxter and another elderly member, Raymond Maher, because they do not attend video-conference meetings.

Cllr Baxter, 91, who has served on the council for more than 50 years, says he does not have a computer and so has been unable to join any meetings held online. 

Chairman Tony Fisher said Strensall Parish Council had no choice but to disqualify Cllr Baxter under national rules relating to attendance at meetings.

He said meetings had been held on Zoom since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but, as he does not have access, Mr Baxter has been unable to attend for months.

Rules state that councillors who do not attend meetings for six months must be removed from their posts. 

Another councillor, Mr Maher, has also been disqualified because he ‘doesn’t do Zoom’.

Mr Fisher said: ‘We took advice from the Yorkshire Local Councils Association and the rules are quite clear.

Strensall Parish Council (above), in North Yorkshire, has disqualified Dennis Baxter and another elderly member, Raymond Maher, because they do not attend Zoom meetings

‘If a member doesn’t attend meetings for six months without a good reason, they must be disqualified.

‘If we had not disqualified the two councillors, every decision the parish council then made that they participated in would have been unlawful.’  

He said councillors not being able to attend meetings because they can’t use Zoom was not considered a sufficient reason.

Mr Fisher said the decision was ‘quite sad’, as Mr Baxter had been a parish councillor for more than 50 years, but added: ‘We have no choice’.  

Chairman Tony Fisher (above) said Strensall Parish Council had no choice but to disqualify Cllr Baxter under national rules

Following the decision, Cllr Baxter said: ‘I haven’t got a computer. There’s a playing field here and I have been picking litter up every morning.’

One resident of Strensall told the York Press: ‘Before lockdown, Mr Baxter was regularly seen litter picking on the playing field in front of the village hall and regularly attended their meetings.

‘He is an elderly gentleman and I’m told he, along with another elderly long-term serving councillor, have been sacked because they do not have a computer.’

Other councillors have been affected by the six-month rule and their ability to attend meetings virtually.

A member of Craven District Council was disqualified last year because he failed to attend a council meeting for six months via video-conferencing, sparking an angry backlash.

Earlier this year, a fiery exchange at Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire went viral when members were disqualified for not attending meetings.

Jackie Weaver, the acting clerk, shot to fame after being told by chairman Brian Tolver that she has ‘no authority at all’ and ordered her to ‘stop talking’.

The National Association of Local Councils said it recognised some councillors do not have the facility to engage fully with Zoom but it is not deemed an acceptable reason for absence.

Mr Fisher said when normal parish council meetings resumed, perhaps in July, it would be open to members to co-opt the two councillors back on to the council.

Source: Read Full Article