YOU kindly invited me to comment on my alleged “vacation of office by failure to attend meetings” at Craven District Council (Craven Herald, September 24). Having just formally submitted my thoughts to the Council, I would like to respond to your request.

The press releases issued by Craven District Council are at best misleading. We were not offered the level of support that the chief executive suggests and one of my colleagues has taken this up with the council.

Despite the claims of officers to the contrary , I did respond when they sent me paperwork, but my response was ignored by them.

Throughout the pandemic I have continued to interact with my parish councils and parish meetings, as readers will be aware from the support they offered in your paper last week.

I thank them and the many individuals and groups that have sent me messages of support from the bottom of my heart.

I have sorted numerous problems out for organisations and individuals including dealing with litter, Covid business grants, ward member grants and a range of other issues.

Having spoken to people about the legislation underlying my supposed ‘dismissal’ I am advised that under the Local Government Act 1972 section 85 (1), had I not attended a meeting of the council for six months, I could indeed have been said to have ‘vacated my office’.

Quite why the council would have enforced this given that they had a discretion that would have allowed them not to, is beyond me. Especially without giving warning. On the contrary, I am told that there is a good argument that the council acquiesced to the position and thus exercised the discretion in emails exchanged with my group leader (Cllr Andy Solloway) at the end of July. At no point did they warm him or me of a potential problem, which I find very disappointing.

The key to all of this is, I am told, held in section 85 (2) which effectively defines what constitutes a council meeting. And given that 'attendance as representative of the authority at a meeting of any body of persons, shall be deemed for the purposes of SS (1) to be attendance at a meeting of the authority', it seems logical to me that my parish and other work qualifies under the Act.

So I have made it clear to CDC that I do not accept that I have vacated my position. The council's constitution clearly states that parish council meetings are part of my 'official duties' but officers seem unaware of this fact and seem to be arguing to the contrary.

I have made it clear to the chief solicitor at Belle Vue Square (council offices) that I am not prepared to let my constituents down by leaving them unrepresented indefinitely. I will continue to work with those who elected me being sure to tell people who I help that my position on the council is being challenged.

I have support from a number of other elected members who have offered to act as a link between me and officers in the unfortunate event that that becomes necessary. I hope that this will be brought to a speedy conclusion.

Thank you for the chance to comment.

David Pighills


Paul Ellis, Director of Services at Craven District Council, responded: “We did not wish to see the Barden Fell ward without representation and we have taken a number of steps to help Mr Pighills attend meetings.

“When we began putting plans in place to hold virtual meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we gave all councillors the opportunity to put alternative arrangements in place in order to attend meetings online, if they had difficulty with poor internet and phone signals.

“We agreed the provision of a separate meeting room at Belle Vue Square in Skipton which could be used by a councillor for Council and committee meetings if they were unable to join these from home.

“We also ensured that members were able to dial in to meetings from a phone line if they wished to do so. We also contacted members by post and sent meeting papers if they had no access to email.

“The Local Government Act 1972 is quite clear that if there is no attendance for six months, the councillor ceases to be a member of the council.”