A Ripon councillor arrested and charged with a criminal offence may now be suspended from the council after an additional standing order was introduced on Monday.
The motion was passed at a Ripon City Council (RCC) meeting after six councillors voted in favour of it with two independent councillors, Pauline McHardy and Charlie Powell abstaining.
Now, as a result, if an elected member of RCC is arrested and charged with a criminal offence they may be suspended from all RCC committees by a vote at full council.
If a majority are in favour, then the member will remain suspended until criminal proceedings are resolved.
The additional standing order was introduced after Coun Andrew Williams (Ind) was arrested in 2013 as part of an investigation into the theft of £220 from the council.
Speaking at the council meeting, Coun Williams said he was ‘happy to’ agree to the introduction of the additional standing order.
However, Coun McHardy accused the Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley (Con), of being ‘unprofessional’ at the meeting, saying that ‘the way you’re putting it over is an attack on him again.’
Speaking after the meeting, Coun McHardy said: “If the council feels that strongly about this then, because it was over two years ago since this happened, they should have been making proposals about it then.
“If this needed to be in place then the council would have acted on it earlier, after this problem had come to light, and then I would have understood it.
“They’re trying to keep Andrew’s name in the paper to haunt him in the event that he stands for council next year.”
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Stanley said: “The council was put in a difficult position after Coun Williams was arrested and charged.
“Most people would have expected him to have resigned but the council was powerless to do something.”
Coun Stanley said it was ‘good for the future that the additional standing order had been introduced but also that it was a great shame they had been forced to do so.
The additional standing order was introduced after the council received legal advice on the matter from the YLCA and a legal advisor at Harrogate Borough Council.
The council agreed to seek this legal advice after the motion was originally raised at a council meeting on October 20.
At the meeting concerns were raised over how wide the proposal would reach with Coun Alan Skidmore (Con) saying it was a ‘great shame’ that the merits of the proposal had to be debated.