Sunderland councillor loses seat after failing to attend a single meeting for six months

A Sunderland councillor has lost her seat after she failed to attend a single meeting for six months.

Monday, 28th November 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 2:40 pm
Former Sandhill Coun Jcqui Gallagher.

Jacqi Gallagher was officially removed from her duties earlier this month, after it is claimed she ‘distanced herself’ from both the council and Labour colleagues.

Mrs Gallagher, who spent more than 10 years at Sunderland City Council as an assistant social worker, was first elected to the St Anne’s ward on March 27, 2014,

Former Sandhill Coun Jacqui Gallagher.

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She was then re-elected to Sandhill on May 7, last year.

As part of her public duties, she sat on a number of council committees and panels, including the Regulatory Committee, Development Control South Sunderland Sub-Committee, Parker Trust, the Licensing Committee and Appeals Panel.

She was automatically removed from her duties on November 12, by virtue of having failed to attend a single meeting since May 13.

Coun Phil Tye, chairman of Houghton and Sunderland South Constituency Labour Party, said: “We have been concerned for some time about Mrs Gallagher’s absence not only from her council duties but from the required involvement in her ward and the communities she serves.

Coun Phil Tye.

“In recent months she appears to have cut herself off from both the council and her colleagues.

“She may have underestimated the commitment in time and effort the councillor role demands.

“As a councillor elected by the public only she could have resolved the matter of absence.

“It was her choice to exit as a councillor via disqualification.”

Sunderland Civic Centre.

A report of the authority’s Head of Law and Governance, Elaine Waugh, which was presented at the November meeting of the full council, states: “Mrs Gallagher last attended a meeting of the city council on May 12, 2016 when she attended the extraordinary meeting of the council to award the Freedom of the City to Mr James Montgomery BEM and Mr John Hays.

“She therefore had until midnight on November, 12, 2016 to attend a further meeting to avoid the effect of section 85 set out in paragraph two of this report.

“Officers have undertaken thorough checks of attendance records and minutes of meetings.

“There is no record of Mrs Gallagher attending a meeting between May 13 and November 12, 2016.

Former Sandhill Coun Jacqui Gallagher.

“Within that period council has not given its approval to any reason for failure to attend and therefore Mrs Gallagher ceased to be a councillor by virtue of section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972.”

Members agreed the recommendation that “That Council notes that Mrs Gallagher has ceased to be a member of this authority by virtue of her absence and declares the seat in the Sandhill Ward as vacant.”

A Sunderland City Council spokesman said: “The council has declared a vacancy.”

The Echo understands that there will be a by-election held in the New Year, although the date is yet to be confirmed.

Mrs Gallagher declined to comment.

Coun Phil Tye.
Sunderland Civic Centre.