A Sunderland councillor who lost her seat after failing to attend a single meeting for six months claims she had a valid sick note covering the absence.
Jacqui Gallagher, who represented Sandhill on Sunderland City Council since May 2015, also told the Echo she was unaware that members are automatically disqualified after an absence of six months.
I’ve gone out of my way to help people all my life, actually, not just doing my councillor stuffJacqui Gallagher
Mrs Gallagher was removed on November 12, after last attending a meeting on May 13.
Her colleagues declared the seat vacant, after being presented with a report at the November full council meeting.
Mrs Gallagher said: “I have been on the sick for six months and Sunderland City Council have had my sick note for depression and anxiety.”
However, the report, available on the council’s website, states: “Within that period council has not given its approval to any reason for failure to attend.”
Mrs Gallagher added: “They also knew I lost my husband to cancer three years ago – he was a councillor too.
“I haven’t attended meetings, because I can’t because of my anxiety and depression, but I have continued to support members of the community. It’s only the meetings that I haven’t attended.
“I’ve gone out of my way to help people all my life, actually, not just doing my councillor stuff.
“I didn’t even know until it happened that if you don’t attend a meeting for six months you stop being a councillor.
“I have had no contact, no support from the Labour party.”
A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: “It would be inappropriate for the city council to comment on an individual’s personal circumstances.”
Sunderland Returning Officer Irene Lucas said: “A notice that a vacancy exists in the Sandhill electoral ward has been published.
“Subject to nominations, and in line with the precedent for local elections on a Thursday, an election to fill the ward vacancy has been scheduled for Thursday, January 12, 2017.”