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South Kesteven District Councillor apologises after row with fellow member from Grantham over absences

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A councillor threatened by censure has apologised after calling a fellow member “irrelevant” during a row over ongoing councillor absence earlier this year.

In March, Councillor Ashley Baxter (Ind) accused Councillor John Cottier (Con) of only attending a meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee in order to keep his allowance and avoid triggering a by-election.

After being told that his comments were irrelevant to the meeting at the time he responded: “Not as irrelevant as Councillor Cottier.”

Councillor Ashley Baxter (left) and Councillor John Cottier. (57241866)
Councillor Ashley Baxter (left) and Councillor John Cottier. (57241866)

On Wednesday, Coun Baxter told the same committee: “It’s been explained to me that I have a choice of making an apology or facing a long and expensive process of facing censure which could potentially prevent me from doing my job as a councillor, so I have reflected on my options.

“In raising the issue in the first place I only meant to draw attention to Councillor Cottier’s attendance record, including his unexpected attendance at Governance and Audit Committee, but I understand that people have taken offence by my use of the word irrelevant and have taken it to be disrespectful to [him].

“It was not my intention to insult Councillor Cottier and I unreservedly apologise for any offence caused to anyone by my comment.”

At the time, records on SKDC’s website showed that since October 1, 2021, Coun Cottier had not attended any of the eight meetings he was expected at and has submitted only one apology for his absence.

The Local Government Act 1972 states that when a council member fails to attend any meeting for six consecutive months from the date of their last attendance, they cease to be a member of the authority, unless the council accepts a reason for the failure to attend before the six-month period expires.

Coun Baxter’s comments were called disrespectful and disgraceful during the original meeting.

However, Coun Baxter said residents of Coun Cottier’s Grantham Barrowby Gate ward would find his absence just as disrespectful.

“By coming here today he’s saved the authority some money by not having a by-election and he also keeps his allowances for another five months,” he said.

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