Casual vacancy after Louth town councillor is removed

The Sessions House in Eastgate is the home of Louth Town Council.
The Sessions House in Eastgate is the home of Louth Town Council.

A Louth town councillor has spoken of her ‘great disillusionment’ after being removed from the council following six months of non-attendance at meetings.

Julie Speed (Trinity ward) last attended a town council meeting on February 20, and as a result she was formally removed from her position this week under the ‘six month rule’ as stipulated in the Local Government Act 1972.

Julie Speed.

Julie Speed.

The position could be filled by co-option, at no cost. But, if East Lindsey District Council receives a request from ‘ten valid registered electors’ 
from the Trinity ward, a by-election will be held which is likely to cost the town council around £4,000.

Mrs Speed, who stood as Louth and Horncastle’s parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party at last year’s general election, become a town councillor following 
a by-election in October 2016.

Her predecessor, Andrew Austin, was similarly removed from the council for six months of continuous non-attendance.

Speaking after last week’s council meeting, Mrs Speed said: “It is with the greatest regret that I have had to stand down as a town councillor.

“This is in part due to my continuing ill health, and my involvement in the ‘Fighting 4 Louth Hospital’ campaign, and in particular East Coast Homeless Outreach, which at the moment, needs my full attention - particularly as Universal Credit is due to be imposed upon our area in September.

“I also feel a great disillusionment about the effectiveness of our local town council, reduced much of the time to a mere talking shop with no real powers to change or influence anything.

“Vital issues which affect our town enormously, such as the loss of our A&E department, the continued degrading of services at our hospital, and the academisation of our schools, have been nodded through with less debate than the issue of dog fouling.

“Louth Town Council could be so much more effective. Witness the success of the cattle market campaign where the town council and local people teamed up for a common cause. But where is the town council support for the hospital campaign?

“Louth Town Council should be the voice of Louth, vociferously standing up for all its citizens’ interests and not just particular groups with more political muscle.

“The local elections in May 2019 will give the voters in Louth and East Lindsey the opportunity to vote for people to represent them, and the Labour Party are fielding a host of capable and dedicated people who will serve their communities well.

“I urge everyone to support and vote these Labour candidates onto our councils to ensure their cares and concerns can be listened to and acted upon.

“Although I am no longer a councillor, I would like people to know I am still available for the residents of Trinity ward to contact me if they think I can help them in any way possible.

“I enjoyed my time as councillor for Trinity and enjoyed meeting it’s residents and would like to thank all those who voted for me.

“I feel truly honoured and humbled that they put their trust in me to be their voice on Louth Town Council.”

Mayor: ‘You are elected to represent’

The Mayor of Louth, Coun George Horton, expressed his disappointment after Mrs Speed was removed from the town council following six months of non-attendance.

Coun Horton said: “As chairman of the council, I think it is unfortunate (that Mrs Speed was removed from the council). However, you are elected to the town council in order to represent the people living in your ward and in the town - and you can’t do that if you’re not there at the meetings!

“If someone has a genuine reason, such as an illness, then I am sympathetic - but it seems to me that there was no attempt to attend any of the meetings in the last six months. It’s a poor show, and it is a let down to the constituents.”

Coun Andrew Leonard also spoke out regarding Coun Speed’s removal from the town council, and said: “It’s a great shame that two members from the same political party (Julie Speed and her predecessor Andrew Austin) have not given the required input or effort into being a town councillor.

“You would ask yourself whether they were just there to make up the political number for the Labour Party?

“The potential, now, is that the ratepayers of Louth will be hit with a bill of more than £3,500, caused by somebody who just couldn’t be bothered.”

Town Clerk, Lynda Phillips, explained that the process of co-option or a potential by-election would take ‘at least’ two to three months overall.