Councillor’s Eligibility Questioned – Appeal To The House Of Lords ?

April 1927

Mexborough and Swinton Times April 22, 1927

Conisborough Council
Members Eligibility Questioned
Do Subsidy Loans Disqualify?
Possible Appeal To The House Of Lords

“Are those who are illegally elected allowed to vote at this Council meeting?”

This question was asked by Mr J Maxfield at the annual meeting of the Conisborough Urban Council on Wednesday. He said the question must be raised but he did not do it in a carping spirit. He just wanted to know.

The Clerk (Mr Spencer Baker) said the question could only be raised in relation to Mr J Webster. Mr Webster had written to him asking for a ruling on the matter. He (the Clerk) had written back stating that the Council had not adopted any standing orders. As to ineligibility it was not the clerk’s duty to tell anyone about that. The only thing was that Mr Webster had received a money loan from the Council – a subsidy of £450.

Mr Webster made himself liable to penalties if he voted as a councillor. He (the Clerk) was not advising the Council, only giving his opinion. It was a fact that in this matter there was no judicial decision that the subsidy alone caused a disqualification. It was a question of interpretation of an Act. In order to confirm his view he had consulted the secretary of the Urban District Council’s Association and the Town Clerk of Doncaster. All the opinions were to the effect that a subsidy loan was a disqualification.

Mr I Webster (father to Mr J Webster) said he knew of 2 persons of the Doncaster Corporation who had subsidy houses and were councillors.

The Clerk: Well, I believe one or two members of the Doncaster Corporation are occupying subsidy houses, but those houses were built by companies.

The Clerk and Nominations

Mr Gillett: but what I would like to ask you why Mr Webster’s nomination was allowed to go through?

The Clerk: It is not my duty to stop anyone’s nomination if it is correct. This question might be taken to the House of Lords if Mr Webster wishes.

Mr I Webster: I should like to ask why to members of the Council were allowed to hire hackney carriages during the election. I understand it is against the law.

The Clerk: It is.

Mr Webster: If those two councillors vote for that person for a contract, how does it stand? What is fair for the goose is fair for the gander.

The Clerk: Did this happen during the elections? If it did, the only thing to do is to make a petition before 17 days have elapsed since the elections.

M A Roberts: It is a pity that they should have happened. I am not fully conversant with Mr Webster’s case. However, we have to look into it. In the “Conisborough Notes” in the “Mexborough Times” after the election, there was a reference to the fact that it was probable that Mr Webster would be disqualified. Mr Webster did two things – help to relieve the housing question by building a house; and provided a home for his wife and family. I think it is right that he should sit on the Council. We are dealing with the Act as it is and not as it should be. I think that the Act is wrong.

Mr WB Wells: We have to get to play in fact. It is up to the Council to design what to do.

The Clerk: it is up to Mr Webster to sign the declaration form now. It must be signed within a month of the election or he will be penalised.

Conflict of Legal Views

Mr J Webster: I have three legal opinions altogether different to those of the Clerk. I am awaiting a further opinion upon which my decision depends. If that opinion says I have to go, I shall go; if not, I shall stay. It is 3 to one on legal opinions. By that I do not mean to say that your Clerk is wrong, but there is no judgement on the matter. But the matter is going to be cleared up.

Mr Roberts: It is not only Mr Webster’s responsibility.

Mr J Webster: If it was not for those people in the East Ward who put me here, I should not be bothered with all this humbug.

The Clerk: By signing the declaration form I do not think you will commit yourself.

The New councillors then signed the declaration forms.