Possible Northampton ward by-election as Labour councillor fails to sign vital paperwork
If the document isn't signed within a set period the position becomes vacant
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A by-election could be on the cards in the Talavera ward of Northampton just over a month after the local elections.
Labour’s Lorraine Chirisa was elected to the Northampton Town Council with 751 votes in May. New councillors have to sign a declaration of acceptance within a set time frame of winning an election. Chirisa has failed to do this, meaning she is not yet legally a councillor.
She missed the first two meetings of the council as she is not allowed to attend without the paperwork being signed.
If a declaration is not made within the correct time period the position becomes vacant, known as a ‘casual vacancy’. A by-election is called if ten local people then sign a letter requesting one. If this doesn’t happen a candidate may be co-opted into the seat after councillors have voted.
NN Journal understands the local Conservative party is lining up the ten signatures needed for a by-election.
Lib Dem councillor for Talavera Dennis Meredith says he wouldn’t be happy for the position to be filled by co-option.
“I’ve been trying to make contact with Lorraine to find out what’s happening but she hasn’t replied to any of my emails,” he said.
“As I understand it, if the declaration isn’t signed in time, the person forfeits their seat. If that’s what’s happening I’m hoping for a by-election. I wouldn’t be happy for a person to be co-opted in.”
The Labour party says it has passed the matter over to the West Northants monitoring officer so that the next steps can be decided.
Labour took control of the the new town council at last month’s elections after the borough council was abolished following the local government reorganisation in the county.
The council’s website has a list of all the town’s councillors alongside their photo and email address. Chirisa is not listed.
Leader of Northampton Town Council Labour Group Jane Birch told NN Journal the party has reminded Chirisa of the need to sign the paperwork several times but she has still not done so.
“We have been quite lenient but once she’s out of time she is in breach of the regulations. We can’t wait any longer, if she is unable to engage in the process it isn’t fair on the people who voted for her. We’re now waiting to hear back from the monitoring officer.”
Chirisa is a first time councillor in Northampton. She also stood in the unitary elections for the Sixfields ward but was not successful. On her Facebook campaign page she said:
“I am rich in experience, empathy and passion to support communities, while driving engagement, developing leaders of tomorrow!”
She was pictured celebrating her win to the town council with other Labour councillors on the day of the election count but little has been heard from her since.
When NN Journal contacted Chirisa for a comment she was surprised to hear of talk of a possible by-election and said she would come back to us with a comment. As yet she has not responded.