Ottery councillor forced to step down for failing to attend a single meeting in six months

PUBLISHED: 13:28 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:44 28 June 2018

Matt Coppell.

Matt Coppell.

Archant

An Ottery councillor has been forced to step down after failing to attend a single meetings in a six month time period.

Cllr Matt Coppell, who was one of two East Devon District Council (EDDC) members that represent the town, last attended a council meeting on December 5, 2017.

Under the Local Government Act 1972, any councillors who fails to attend a meeting for six consecutive months, unless the absence was pre-approved by the council, is forced to step down.

As a result, Mr Coppell who was a member of the East Devon Alliance vacated his position as a councillor on June 6.

His failure to attend a meeting was due to his ‘self-employed work commitments’ that meant he could not attend a meeting.

A by-election is expected to be held at a later date to find his replacement.

Mr Coppell said: “I am a self-employed working man, and the nature and volume of my work in recent months has made it increasingly difficult for me to meet the lawful requirements of being a councillor regarding attending meetings. I believe there is more to being a councillor than attending meetings, however, and that it is the work you do outside of these meetings that can be generally more constructive and rewarding. I have always made myself available to my constituents whenever called upon and have enjoyed this aspect of being a councillor a great deal.

“However, whilst I am naturally disappointed not to have seen out the full four-year term, I have no regrets about it coming to a premature end. Of late, I have not been able to dedicate the time I would like to the role and therefore feel it is for the best that someone else is allowed to take up the reins.

“My only hope is that, for the sake of democracy, another independent candidate can be found to stand in the resulting by-election.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “We understand that due to Matt Coppell’s work commitments, the last council meeting that he was able to attend was on December 5, 2017. Therefore, he accordingly ceased to be a member of EDDC on June 6, 2018.

“The returning officer, Mark Williams, is now required to publish a notice of vacancy and if two electors in the Ottery St Mary Rural Ward request an election then a by-election will be held.

“The next scheduled elections are in May 2019 so the period of office will be from the day after the by-election until the 2019 election date.”

No date for when a by-election would be held has yet been announced.

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