Questions about the conduct and actions of K&C Council have arisen following the recent resignation of Andrew Lamont; he goes to Crown Court on 13 October to fight 22 charges related to internet pornography. The by-election in Norland Ward where he was Councillor has been announced for Thursday 6 October.
The formal announcement from the Council press office on 31 August stated: ‘Andrew Lamont resigned his office as a councillor for Norland ward on August 30. Eleven months ago, Mr Lamont had requested unpaid leave of absence from the council which had been granted. A notice of vacancy has been posted by the town clerk. A by-election will be called in due course.’
However, it has now been confirmed that this statement was untrue; there had been no request from former Cllr Lamont for leave of absence.
When a Councillor has to be absent for a period, there are strict rules, procedures and protocols in place. In exceptional circumstances, for example ill health, Councillors may exempt themselves from meetings but must attend at least once every six months. Alternatively Councillors may ask formally for leave of absence, though this is very rare. These procedures are often conducted in strictest confidence, and are agreed with the Leaders of other political groups.
However there was no such consultation or discussion in relation to former Cllr Lamont’s absence. There is grave concern that the correct procedures were not followed and that therefore the information coming out of the Council has been misleading. The Labour Opposition Group have asked a number of questions that so far remain unanswered by the Conservative Group.
– As former Cllr Lamont was not on leave of absence, what was his formal position according to the Constitution?
– Why did the press release state that he had requested and was granted leave of absence, when in fact he was not?
– The Council website states that former Cllr Lamont did not take his allowance from 11.11.10 because he was ‘away from Council business’. In that case, why did he attend Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on 7 March 2011, and why was he appointed on 18 July 2011 to the Cabinet and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee?
Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘The role of Councillor is a privilege not a right, if you cannot fulfil your role you must step down; the Constitution is there to be followed not flouted. If we need guidance on particular issues there are officers on hand to give it. It is very clear that there are questions to be asked about former Cllr Lamont’s absence, and how this was handled. The matter is extremely serious. We demand answers.’