Green’s challenge Labour to come clean over absent councillor

29 October 2018

Green Councillor, Chris Musgrave, is challenging Exeter Labour party to reveal the whereabouts of a missing councillor. Residents of St David’s, where Lewis Keen is a Labour councillor, have raised concerns about his absence in the ward; the fact he has no residential address in Exeter, being listed as ‘C/O Civic Centre’ [1]; and his failure to attend successive council meetings [2].  

Greens point to the fact that Cllr Keen failed to attend five successive meetings of a committee of which he is a member, but then appeared at the September 2018 meeting. Council rules state that a failure to attend a sixth meeting would have disqualified him from remaining a councillor. Then at the full Council meeting on 16th October, Cllr Keen was removed from two committees and replaced by other councillors, without explanation [3].

Exeter Greens are also concerned that Labour may have breached election nomination rules which state that any candidate standing in local elections must be registered as a local government elector for the local authority area in which they wish to stand from the day of nomination onwards [4]. They have also questioned whether Cllr Keen has continued to receive allowances during this time. The Exeter Green Party’s election agent has raised concerns about breaches of the rules with Council officers.  

Cllr Musgrave said: 

“We have to ask whether Exeter Labour’s leadership have been involved in a cover-up here. Labour must come clean and explain why a councillor elected in May 2016 has apparently been invisible from the ward for almost a year, since December 2017. 

“Residents need to know whether their elected representative has breached eligibility rules and whether he has still been pocketing his £5,000 annual allowance despite not being around to earn it. 

“Exeter has been a one-party state for too long. It is scandals like this that demonstrate Labour have become too powerful and over complacent. It’s time Labour answered some crucial questions about the whereabouts of one of their councillors. 

Diana Moore, Green Party candidate for the St David’s ward, added:

“I know, from talking to residents on the doorstep, there are many issues of concern in St David’s. Councillors are elected to deal with these issues, but clearly cannot do so if they are not present. Labour are letting down this ward badly. 

“Residents have a right to know if their elected councillor no longer represents them. If he has moved from Exeter and no longer meets the legal requirements expected of sitting councillors, Labour should have done the responsible thing and ensured he resigned so that another councillor could have been elected last May. It is clear that Labour in Exeter want power without responsibility.”

ENDS

Notes

[1] http://committees.exeter.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=1890 

[2] http://committees.exeter.gov.uk/mgAttendance.aspx?UID=1890 

[3] http://committees.exeter.gov.uk/documents/g5797/Printed%20minutes%2016th-Oct-2018%2018.00%20Council.pdf?T=1 page 4: Deputy Leader, Cllr Sutton, moved Cllr Pattison to replace Cllr Keen on Licensing Committee, and Cllr Owen to replace Cllr Keen on Scrutiny Committee. 

[4] The nomination paper for those wanting to stand in local elections provides four options:

a. You are, and will continue to be, registered as a local government elector for the local authority area in which you wish to stand from the day of your nomination onwards.  

b. You have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election. 

c. Your main or only place of work during the 12 months prior to the day of your nomination and the day of election has been in the local authority area.  

d. You have lived in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election. 

As councillor Keen was new to Exeter as a university student in 2016 when elected, it seems unlikely he would have been eligible for any other option than option a.