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Election or Co-option? That is the question

Saturday 6 September 2014, 15:23
By John Smith

The Wincanton Town Hall clock tower, and the Market Place signpost

With summer over, Wincanton Town Council starts the autumn season on Monday 8th September at 7.30pm. The resignation of four Councillors in July/August means the new season starts with a search to either co-opt or elect new Councillors. The process started with the publication of the following vacancy notices on the Council website.


Notice is hereby given in accordance with Section 87 of the Local Government Act 1972 that one vacancy has occurred on the Wincanton Town Council.

Unless a request for an election to be held is submitted in writing to the Proper Officer of South Somerset District Council at the Council Offices, Brympton Way, Yeovil, Somerset. BA20 2HT by 17th September 2014 by ten electors for the town of Wincanton, the Town Council will proceed to fill the vacancies by co-option.

Ms Sam Atherton

Town Clerk

As the resignations took place over several weeks, four separate notices were issued with differing expiry dates. That means that it will take two or more council meetings to co-opt/elect new Councillors.

The first item on the agenda for the Town Council meeting on Monday 8th is the election of a new Chair of Council (Mayor) owing to the resignation of the former Chair, Deryck Lemon. Item three deals with the replacement of Councillor David Norris who resigned at the last Town Council meeting on 28th July. The remaining three vacancies will need to be dealt with at subsequent meetings.

Wincanton Town Hall and Community Office

In May 2015 (nine months from now) we will all go to the poll to elect Members of Parliament (the Government), County Councillors, District Councillors, and Town Councillors. With a major election looming how should the Town Council deal with replacing four Councillors? Election or co-option? That is the question.

ELECTION - If ten or more members of the public (they must be registered on the electoral roll) write to “The Proper Officer”, South Somerset District Council, Brympton Way, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 2HT”, they can ask for an election.

PRO: An election would be a good way for a fresh start validated by public votes. It means that election candidates could address the people via a hustings, explaining why they want to stand and what they bring to the table.

CON: An election would cost the Town Council in excess of £1500, even though it involves only four replacement Councillors.

CO-OPTION – If no call for an election is received, the Town Council can “co-opt” new members from those who submit applications within the stated time periods.

PRO: This process is simpler and quicker. One councillor would be co-opted on Monday, and two weeks later another three councillors could be co-opted into service. The only cost is the printing of an application form for each candidate.

CON: Co-option is an opportunity to bring friends and sympathetic colleagues onto the Council, by-passing the election system; the residents of the town having no say.

Both options achieve the same thing, one cheaper and less democratic than the other; both equally valid given the circumstances. Perhaps the crucial factor is the pending national elections in May 2015. What do you think?


Posts: 1
Re: Election or Co-option? That is the question
Reply #1 on : Mon September 08, 2014, 09:13:04
Another question occurs; what if nobody applies? I'm not familiar with the process of co-option; can it be imposed on an unwilling conscript, or would the council simply have to get by on short numbers?
Posts: 2
No applicants?
Reply #2 on : Mon September 08, 2014, 10:38:57
Good question Heyesey. In this instance I believe that there are actually two applicants, so all should be well. However it's possible that at the next Town Council meeting they will need to co-opt three new councillors to bring TC back to full strength. So if they only get two or less, what happens? I've mailed Sam Atherton at the Town Hall asking if she can clarify. Watch this space.
Posts: 2
No Applicants?
Reply #3 on : Mon September 08, 2014, 11:06:30
Town Clerk Sam Atherton has confirmed that if no applications are received to fill vacancies the Town Council would continue with a reduced number. She also stated that if there is less than 6 months to a General Election when a vacancy arises, that they don't have to co-opt. They could simply decide to wait till the General Election.

Hope that helps to clarify Heyesey.
Posts: 1
Town Council Vacancy!
Reply #4 on : Sun March 29, 2015, 10:41:52
In answer to the question what happens if two or more applied for one seat vacancy on the Town council. There would be a vote between those Councillors present. Whoever had a majority would win, if a tie, normally it's a draw of straws, I experienced this at a previous General Election when I tied with a colleague on 1,664 votes each!!
Interestingly I have no idea who intends to stand for the Town Council this years elections. I think I'm right in saying that at least half (15 members make up the Council)the current Town Council is made up of new co-opted Councillors, they've never faced a ballot. At around £1,500 a throw probably a good thing. I sincerely hope we get some new faces with fresh ideas for the Town. In my mind Wincanton is not in Crisis but the High Street is in dire need of improvements!

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