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Unease Over Clerk Standing in Normandy Parish Council Election

Published on: 21 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 23 Apr, 2021

By Martin Giles

Normandy residents are uneasy about the candidature of Leslie Clarke, the present parish clerk, in the May 6 parish council election, same day as the county council election.

Official guidance appears to disqualify paid employees of the parish council from standing but his nomination has been accepted by GBC who say they have no power to prevent it.

On Friday, April 16, the returning officer, James Whiteman (GBC managing director) told The Dragon NEWS: “Under electoral law and guidance to candidates issued by the Electoral Commission, a person will be disqualified from standing for election to a parish council if they are also employed by that parish council.

“But the statutory role of the returning officer is to check that a nomination paper is valid, not to check that a candidate is qualified, or not disqualified, to stand for election. The candidate is responsible for ensuring they are qualified to stand.”

Taken from the official guidance for parish council candidates referred to on the Guildford Borough Council website.

Mr Clarke has declined to comment, repeating that he is off sick until further notice. He has been on sick leave for two months and an interim clerk has been appointed to serve the interim council, made up mainly of borough councillors.

A new parish council was needed after all but one of the former councillors resigned. Eight of the nine seats are now being contested by nine candidates.

That means, if Mr Clarke was not standing an election, which may cost the parish several thousand pounds, the official estimate has not yet been made public, would not be necessary.

The Electoral Commission has been made aware of the situation, it is believed, but with the ballot papers all printed, they are not expected to step in until after the election.

One Normandy resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “You have to ask why Mr Clarke is standing, given he knows as the clerk to the council he can’t be a councillor. It will cost the parish a lot of money.

“People are angry and asking if he will be made to pay it back. It’s a waste of our taxes.”

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