Friday, 27 November 2020

Town councillor too busy to stand for re-election

A HENLEY town councillor says she will not stand for re-election due to her other commitments.

A HENLEY town councillor says she will not stand for re-election due to her other commitments.

Laila Meachin, a member of Henley Residents’ Group, has not attended a planning committee meeting for more than 18 months.

She says that since retraining as a teacher she has had not as much time to dedicate to her council work but she will continue to support her party in the run-up to the election on May 7.

Cllr Meachin, a graphic designer and mother-of-two, was elected to the town council in May 2011 and was made chairwoman of traffic advisory committee and vice-chairwoman of the planning committee.

However, since June 2013 she has missed 29 meetings of the planning committee.

The committee is chaired by Councillor Dieter Hinke, a former HRG colleague who recently switched to the Conservatives.

He said: “It is disappointing on any committee if members don’t attend regularly.

“However, in each case, Cllr Meachin has sent her apologies beforehand and asked if anyone can substitute for her on the committee. We have never been in a situation where we haven’t been quorate.

“I wouldn’t say it has had an effect on the work we do â?? there’s enough of us there to do the job.

“Looking ahead, if members of any committee clearly have a problem on certain days and continuously send apologies, it probably would be better if they came off that committee.”

If a councillor fails to attend any council meeting for a continuous period of six months they are automatically disqualified from office. Henley town clerk Mike Kennedy said that if a councillor missed a council meeting for a sustained period he would remind them of their legal obligation.

He wrote to Cllr Meachin in June last year saying that she had not attended a meeting since the full council met on February 18 and that she had to attend one by August 17.

She then substituted for Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak on the meeting of the finance strategy and management committee when it met on July 18.

Last month Cllr Meachin objected to comments on her attendance record made by Deputy Mayor Jeni Wood at a council meeting.

She had complained about not receiving Cllr Wood’s report on South Oxfordshire District Council in enough time for her to prepare for the meeting.

Cllr Wood, who sits as an independent after leaving HRG at the same time at Cllr Hinke, said it was “rich” for someone who “hardly ever” attended meetings to “dare call me out when I go to every meeting, ex-officio and district council meetings as well”.

Cllr Meachin, who lives in Gainsborough Road, issued a statement to the Henley Standard.

She said: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reply. I have been expecting your enquiry since the Conservatives have been trying to make this a story for some time, including making enquiries through the Freedom of Information Act.

“I spent two years fully dedicated to the town council as chair of the traffic advisory committee, chair of the Henley Air Quality Action Group and vice-chair of plans.

“I then made some life decisions and took up teacher training, which requires me to work 60-plus hours a week. On top of my responsibilities as a mother, this has made it very difficult to continue my council duties at the same rate.

“However, I am still committed to preparing for and attending full council meetings. I feel that my contribution as a teacher to the local community is far greater than I was able to contribute in council.

“Obviously, I will not be standing at the election in May. However, I will continue to support and do as much as I can for the Henley Residents’ Group, to which I have dedicated a significant amount of time since 2009.

“I have also put a fair amount of work into selecting new HRG candidates to stand at the election in May, a role which everyone dedicates a huge amount of time to.

“I am very glad that HRG has a strong set of candidates and huge support among the residents of Henley.”

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