Councillor quits in ‘innocent mistake’ over job rule

County Hall, the headquarters of Durham County Council.

County Hall, the headquarters of Durham County Council.

A newly-elected Labour councillor has quit her post after it was found she should not have stood as a candidate under rules.

Leanne Kennedy was voted into post for the Dawdon ward of Durham County Council alongside fellow party member Kevin Shaw following the local elections on May 4.

Councillor Barry Taylor, leader of Seaham Community Party and Seaham Town Council member.

Councillor Barry Taylor, leader of Seaham Community Party and Seaham Town Council member.

But now she has had to step down after it emerged she was prohibited from running because she works at a council-run school.

Her resignation has led to the council’s suggestion there is likely to be a by-election to give residents the chance to have their say once again.

However, Seaham Community Party has said it believes its candidate, Bob Arthur, should be put into the post.

Ms Kennedy, a first time candidate, polled 812, with Mr Arthur polling 710.

This was an innocent mistake and I have now resigned my seat.

Leanne Kennedy

Councillor Shaw polled the most with 886 votes.

Ms Kennedy will serve as a Seaham Town Council member, representing the Dawdon ward, as it goes not conflict with rules.

In a statement, she said: “When standing for election due to an error I was wrongly advised that as my role was not politically restricted I could maintain my employment.

“However, members of council staff are not allowed to hold elected office for the council which employs them.

“I was elected to Durham County Council in the recent elections but am an employee of the local authority.

“This was an innocent mistake and I have now resigned my seat.

“I regret the inconvenience this will cause.”

Clare Pattinson, the county council’s interim head of legal and democratic services, said: “We can confirm that Leanne Kennedy has resigned as a councillor for Dawdon on the basis that because she is employed in a council-run school as a year manager, she is prohibited from serving as a local member here.

“We understand this situation is the result of an honest mistake.

“In response to this resignation we will now advertise the vacancy in the usual way which will probably lead to a by-election.”

Councillor Barry Taylor is leader of Seaham Community Party and a Seaham Town Councillor for the Deneside Ward.

He stood for the same ward in the county council election, but failed to win either of its councillor posts.

The former Labour Party member said: “I think it’s diabolical that the Labour Party had a candidate who failed to make a declaration.
“Our party has been going for about a year and we managed to know the rules about candidates.

“We are going to email the council and say it should go to us to save the tax payer money.”