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Kingston Council to introduce powers to sack bad councillors

Kingston Council is proposing to give local voters the opportunity to sack their local councillor if they fail to meet a set of clearly defined standards.

It is a move designed to build greater trust in local government and elected representatives. The proposals are part of a wider programme of constitutional reforms called ‘Renewing Kingston’s Democracy’ which the council is taking forward in a bid to improve the way the council works by engaging better with local people.

Speaking about the proposals Councillor Kevin Davis, Leader of Kingston Council, said:

“At a time of massive challenges for local government we need to connect better than ever before with local people. In order to do that we must win greater trust and that is exactly what these measures are designed to help us do.

“Most local councillors work incredibly hard on behalf of their constituents.

But occasionally the behaviour of local councillors falls below a standard that voters have a right to expect. Under these new recall proposals, voters in Kingston would be able to do something about it; to kick them out of office and have a fresh election.

“Legislation does not currently exist to make councillor recall mandatory. So I am proposing that we introduce this in Kingston as a non-statutory protocol which Members are required to sign at the earliest opportunity upon taking office. I am writing to all the Leaders of the 150 unitary authorities calling on them to do likewise. I will also be lobbying Government Ministers to consider introducing new legislation that would give this a statutory footing.

“I believe this approach should be used across Local Government to open up transparency, but also show Government that when it comes to recall we must trust the voter and not leave it to Committees of Politicians to decide when wrong has been done. The voter knows best, let’s trust them.”

The proposals, which have the backing of both local MPs James Berry and Zac Goldsmith (a long-time campaigner for Recall of Members of Parliament), will come before a meeting of the Council in July 2015.

Under the proposals, a number of scenarios could trigger a petition calling for a by-election, including:

  • if a councillor’s attendance at meetings over a municipal year falls below 20 per cent
  • if a councillor attends fewer than two full Council or Neighbourhood Committee meetings within a year
  • if a councillor is convicted of a crime for which a prison sentence has been imposed and the appeal period has expired without the sentence having been overturned
  • if a councillor moves their main residence outside of The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

If one or more of these criteria are met, the council’s Monitoring Officer would consider the circumstances and whether a petition should be launched on the council web site calling for the resignation of the councillor concerned. The petition would remain live for three months. If more than 33 per cent of the registered electors in the Ward sign the petition, there would be an expectation that the councillor concerned would resign thereby triggering a by-election.