THE Mayor of Mirfield has denied a ‘plot’ to oust a councillor who was unable to take his seat.
Coun Vivien Lees-Hamilton said Michael Hutchinson had only himself to blame for the blunder.
Mr Hutchinson went to Canada to see his terminally-ill brother after his election victory.
All councillors have to be sworn in by the date of a body’s annual general meeting (AGM), in this case May 19.
Mr Hutchinson made no arrangements to make his declaration at a later date, as he would have been entitled to under electoral law.
The final deadline to ask for a deferral is the date of the AGM, after which the seat becomes vacant.
Mr Hutchinson forfeited his Battyeford seat – and an update on the prospect of a by-election is to be given at the next council meeting on Tuesday.
Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “I would suggest that the only tactical issue was a failure of the Labour group to communicate internally.
“On the night in question there were also present Coun Gary Bunton (Lab) and Coun David Pinder (Ind).
“The minutes also show the matter was not raised or discussed, so rebutting any claim to tactical or political manoeuvres at the meeting.”
She added Mr Hutchinson left the election count on May 8 before his victory was announced.
Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “As a result, we were not able to have any dialogue once his election had been confirmed by the returning officer.”
Town council clerk Lisa Staggs asked Kirklees for Mr Hutchinson’s details so an invite to the AGM could be sent. They only had his postal address, though a phone number and email remain listed on the Labour Party’s Dewsbury branch website.
Coun Lees-Hamilton, having not heard from Mr Hutchinson, told Coun Bunton to get word to him.
Mr Hutchinson, a former town and Kirklees councillor, did not make contact until May 31, after his return from Canada.
Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “No mention was made by Coun Bunton of the nature of Mr Hutchinson’s visit to Canada.
“Nor did Coun Bunton at the AGM place an apology from Mr Hutchinson for not attending or raise any question of the deferral of his declaration.”
Council chiefs accused of ‘political spite’
AN election winner unable to take his seat accused Mirfield Town Council chiefs of hypocrisy and “political spite”.
Michael Hutchinson went to Canada without making sure he could be sworn in at or before the council’s annual general meeting (AGM). He lost his Battyeford seat – but claimed a Tory was treated differently four years ago.
Mr Hutchinson said: “All they needed to do for me to take up my seat was to ask me to make my declaration at a later date.
“They allowed three of their own absentees, one of whom had not sent an apology to the council, to declare late after the 2011 elections.”
He said it was discrimination and added: “Their reputations and that of the town council have been besmirched.”
Mr Hutchinson is seeking a by-election and said: “The only grounds for their action, or lack of it, appear to be political spite.
“Civilised discourse between political opponents should be possible after an election.
“After the way I have been treated, this appears to be impossible and I would not trust the Conservative councillors to co-opt me onto the council.”
He called on the Tories, who he said had “acted in haste”, not to field a candidate in any by-election.
“If others did the same it would ensure justice was achieved. The ball is firmly in their court.”
He claimed not to have had contact details for town council clerk Lisa Staggs – though her phone and email addresses are on the council website.
“Without the clerk’s e-mail address, I could not contact the council while I was abroad,” he said.
“I wrote to the clerk within a week of my return home and hand-delivered my letter.
“Any suggestion that I could or should have contacted the clerk at an earlier date is nonsense.”
‘Decision is correct’ ruling
OFFICIALS from a local government body have backed Mirfield Town Council’s decision on Michael Hutchinson.
The elected Labour candidate was not able to make his declaration by the date of the council’s annual general meeting on May 19.
It created a “casual vacancy” which could be filled by a co-opted member or with a by-election.
The Yorkshire Local Councils Association said the decision not to allow Mr Hutchinson to take his seat was correct.
A statement said: “The opinion of the association is that the council has acted appropriately.
“It is unclear what else the council could have done to make contact with the individual ahead of the annual meeting of the town council.
“Moreover the individual has to take responsibility for not contacting the town council until three weeks after the election.”
It added Mr Hutchinson can apply to be co-opted onto the council or seek a by-election.
The statement concluded: “It is open to him to make a complaint about the actions of the council through the procedure set out in its complaints policy.”