A political row has exploded following a decision by Barnsley Council to appoint its only Lib Dem councillor to a job on the authority’s planning board, taken without her consent.
Coun Hannah Kitching has accepted two appointments but said she rejected a third, sitting on the planning board, following her election success for the Penistone West ward in May because it is a demanding role and she is new to the job, but insists she did not rule out stepping into the role later in her four year term.
But she was nominated and seconded for the job at a meeting of the full council, meaning she was appointed but has now said she intends to resign and will do the same again if she is re-appointed to the role next month.
Coun Kitching said she found the process “humiliating” but insisted the principle of councillors rejecting appointments to committees or boards was not unusual, citing a Lib Dem colleague at Rotherham who had done the same without repercussions.
She said accepting all three appointments would have left her with too little time to spend working in her ward – something she had promised residents as part of her campaign to get elected and said: “Even if what they have done is within the law, it is at best bad practice.”
However, her decision provoked a reaction from both Conservative and Labour colleagues on the council, with Conservative Coun Paul Hand-Davis told the meeting Coun Kitching had support from the other five councillors representing Penistone and invited her to “come on board, get involved, that is what we do on Barnsley Council.
“You have to stand up and be counted on the planning board. You make some difficult decisions,” he said.
Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the meeting: “This is the first time on my council this instance has occurred and it is not something we wish to do.
“The reason we have been successful is because we do things properly. Just hold onto that principle, because for me it really does matter.
“Appointments do not require individual consent. What I don’t accept is that people can opt out from the duties for which they were elected.
“When you are elected a councillor, you are not elected as a councillor for your ward but as a councillor for the borough as a whole.
“If members decide they don’t want to do it, that is just a burden on other members.”
Legal rules mean councillors have to attend at least one meeting every six months.
Coun Sharon Howard, who proposed Coun Kitching’s appointment to the planning board, said: “Coun Kitching can take her legal advice and we will have our legal advice reaffirmed.”