Town Council Stuck in Perpetual Election Cycle

Following the nine resignations from the Oundle Town Council in February 2016, three places remain vacant.

Initially an election was called for early April, and twelve applications were submitted. But due to incomplete or inaccurate information on the nomination papers, the Returning Officer judged only one to be valid. Subsequently, Duncan Butler was elected to the council unopposed.

At this point there were still eight places to be filled on the council. Potential candidates had until the 1st of July to submit nominations. Seven were received and all were elected unopposed, with one vacancy still remaining. However, complications were added to the situation when on the 12th of July, Councillor Paul Piercy-Hughes resigned from the council, creating a further vacancy.

Therefore, on the 14th of July, a further election was called for the 18th of August to elect two councillors. However, no nominations were submitted by the deadline of 22nd of July.

Duncan Butler resigned from the council on 21 September, creating a third vacancy to be filled.

An election for the three open seats was called for the 10th of November, the deadline for nominations being the 14th of October. However, no nominations were received.

The last election was called for the 22nd of December. Only one nomination was received for the three vacancies, so the candidate was elected uncontested.

When a notice of vacancy is declared, in order for an election to be called, ten eligible voters from Oundle must make a request in writing for an election to be held. Without a formal request for an election, the council would need to co-opt a new member.

The position of a parish councillor is extremely difficult to fill; it is voluntary, takes up a lot of time and there is the potential to be on the receiving end of a lot of conflict.

This may be the reason why the council positions have taken a lot of effort to fill. The process has been extremely difficult to resolve since February 2016, when half the council resigned.

In last full election of 2015, out of 51 parish councils in East Northamptonshire, 44 elections were uncontested. Two parishes had no nominations for election at all.

Lucy Baker-Cresswell
December 2016