Confusion over town co-option

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CONFUSION has surrounded the matter of who will fill the six vacant seats on Whitby Town Council (WTC).

A notice advertising the vacancies was issued but declared invalid due to a failure to include a closing date for applications and WTC have been forced to seek legal advice about how to proceed.

At a special council meeting on 24 April, it was decided to reissue the advertisement, this time with a closing date included.

Scarborough Borough Council has advised WTC to fill the seats by co-option, seen as an unpopular move by many.

Co-option would see councillors appoint an applicant to the position, with no public election taking place, and many councilllors oppose the use of co-option, with Councillor Ian Havelock calling the process “undemocratic”.

Alternatives are limited, and he went on to propose that “it would be more democratic to co-opt failed candidates from the local election”.

However time is running out and WTC has 35 days to fill these vacancies, following the recent local election, otherwise they will remain empty and the town council will operate with a smaller-than-usual representation.

Newly-elected mayor, Coun John Freeman said: “If we don’t go through the line of co-option then the actual pool of council members for committees almost becomes untenable.”

A notice has been reissued, with a new closing date of 31 May.

And a decision is set to be made at an extraordinary meeting of the council on Thursday 9 June, one day short of the 35 days allowed.

Concerns were also raised during the meeting that the advertisement had not been widely circulated by the town council, and was therefore not reaching as many potential candidates as it otherwise could have.

Three people have already submitted applications to be considered for co-option, and these will remain valid.