Concerns over electoral roll to be aired at council meeting

Jon Joughin

Jon Joughin

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Concerns about the removal of a local politician whose name was missing from the electoral register will be raised at tomorrow’s meeting of Douglas Council.

And the ousted councillor, Jon Joughin, has hit out at his ‘heavy-handed treatment’ by town hall officials - and say the whole episode is bad for democracy.

Councillor Stephen Pitts has tabled a series of questions after Victoria ward councillor Mr Joughin, a member of the executive committee and former deputy mayor, was forced to step down last month after it emerged he was not on the electoral roll.

He is one of four local authority members around the island who have been obliged to quit.

There are nine other Commissioners who could face the same sanction as their names, too, are not on the voters’ list.

Changes to the register introduced from April mean that householders now have to register rather than be automatically enrolled.

Douglas Council has defended its decision to remove Mr Joughin and say it took legal advice. The Attorney General’s chambers, however, say the legislation is open to interpretation.

And in any event, Mr Joughin claims he did post his return.

He said: ‘I do think they have been heavy-handed. I was brought in and sacked straight away. I suggested I took a two month sabbatical but that still didn’t satisfy them.

‘We have commissioners who have served their communities for 20 years. They don’t deserve to be treated like this - it’s not right.

‘The Sir Humphreys have won the day but I think at the price of democracy. Elected politicians with a mandate from the people have been thrown out of office. It’s like a banana republic.

‘They had their get out early card with advice from AG but no they are sticking to the letter of the law - that to me is crazy.

‘It costs £4,000 a by-election. For a small authority it could be penny on the rates. There could be 10 by-elections, £40,000.’

Mr Joughin has pledged to stand again. He has asked the Post Office to investigate his missing form which he insists he filled in and returned.

The register is next updated on October 1, meaning that he can’t try to win back his seat in the Victoria ward by-election on September 10 as he will not be eligible to stand.

At the council meeting tomorrow, Mr Pitts will ask why he has apparently been refused a hard copy of the legal advice and on what authority and by whom was that advice obtained.

Was the outcome of the legal advice conveyed to Mr Joughin verbally or in writing and was the decision to remove him notified to any councillor or committee before it was taken, he will ask - and what is the cost of the legal advice.

Mr Pitts is also seeking to establish if there is a policy for checking the electoral roll and what offences would be committed by Mr Joughin or the council, or its chief executive, if no action was taken.

He will further query if the government has confirmed it will take any action to enforce any offences committed.

And he will question who prepared and approved the press release issued on this matter.

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