‘I am happy to work for Arlesey again’ – Bereaved town councillor disqualified for missing meetings says she could stand again if asked

Helen Frost, who was disqualified as a member of Arlesey Town Council last week. Picture: Arlesey To

Helen Frost, who was disqualified as a member of Arlesey Town Council last week. Picture: Arlesey Town Council - Credit: Archant

A long-serving town councillor who was disqualified by email after missing meetings to care for family members has said she could stand again if asked.

Helen Frost missed about six months of Arlesey Town Council meetings while caring for her mother – who died in January – and then for other members of her family.

The 58-year-old was unaware of government rules automatically disqualifying councillors if they fail to attend meetings for six months, and was shocked when on Tuesday last week town clerk Susan Foulkes informed her by email of her disqualification.

The next day the town council posted a notice on its website inviting nominations to replace Mrs Frost, who was an independent.

Mrs Frost – who served on the council for more than a decade – told the Comet: “If the people of Arlesey ask for an election and they want me to stand again, I am more than happy to work for the people of Arlesey.”

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The last meeting Mrs Frost attended was that on October 18.

Following outcry on social media, Arlesey Town Council has today released a statement ‘to provide residents with a factual account’ of the events leading to Mrs Frost’s disqualification.

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The statement reads: “In early March the town clerk became aware that Councillor Frost was at risk of breaching the six-month threshold for non-attendance.

“Upon being asked, Councillor Frost confirmed that she would attend the meeting of Arlesey Town Council on March 21, 2017.

“It subsequently came to light that a member of Councillor Frost’s family fell ill on the same day, and Councillor Frost was unable to attend.”

No apologies or request for the council to approve her absence were received at the time of the meeting, though Mrs Frost did send apologies by email afterwards.

Advice was then sought from the Central Bedfordshire Council deputy returning officer Brian Dunleavy, who told the town council that under Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 the six-month period would expire on April 17.

The statement continues: “It is the responsibility of council members to be aware of their attendance, to issue apologies for non-attendance and to submit to the council any request for special dispensation.

“The absence of this in the case of Councillor Frost meant that Arlesey Town Council was compelled to follow legislation and the advice of the Central Beds Council returning officer, which automatically meant that Mrs Frost ceased to hold council office as at April 17.

“The council would like to thank Mrs Frost for her many years of dedicated service to the council and its staff and wish Mrs Frost every success in all of her community activities now and in the future.”

The council added that there was nothing to stop Mrs Frost from standing for election again.

Speaking to the Comet, Mrs Foulkes lamented the ‘series of unfortunate events’ leading to this situation.

She added: “I would just like to say that the email I sent her didn’t say she was suspended. I assure you that no-one would want to upset Helen.

“My personal feeling is that she would be welcome back onto the council. Maybe she will come back.”

A second vacancy on the town council has arisen following the resignation of Stephen Stanbury.

Nominations to replace Mrs Frost and Mr Stanbury are invited until May 10, with at least 10 Arlesey parish electors needing to endorse a candidate in writing to Brian Dunleavy at Central Beds Council.

Elections will be held by July 13 if there are more than two nominations made. If fewer than two nominations are made, the council will fill any outstanding spaces by co-option.

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