With an advertised vacancy on St Mellion Parish Council, I’ve been reading up this morning on how the co-option process works. If ten parishioners formally request an election there will be no co-option but for the purposes of understanding the process, I’m assuming this won’t happen.
The co-option procedure is well documented at various places on the Internet, largely due to other Parishes advertising the process as and when they’ve had need to apply it. Fortunately every instance I’ve read states the same procedure so I think it’s fairly safe to assume St Mellion will be no different. The interesting part is that St Mellion is represented by a smaller number of councillors than any other Parish I’ve read about.
The first step of the co-option process is for councillors to make nominations. A councillor must be present at the meeting to make a nomination and they are free to nominate anyone they like regardless of whether that person has expressed an interest in the vacancy. Each councillor can make up to one nomination per vacancy. St Mellion has five councillors and just a single vacancy so that’s a maximum of five nominations. So far so good. However, each nomination must also be seconded by another councillor, with each councillor only allowed to nominate or second, not both! With only five councillors, this means that a maximum of only two candidates can be both nominated and seconded. Suffice to say, there are going to be a few unhappy people if more than two have expressed an interest.
When a nomination is made, a second is immediately sought. If one is not forthcoming, the nominee is excluded and the nominator is unable to nominate or second anyone else for the duration of the round. (In St Mellion’s case, with so few councillors, it’s unlikely there would be more than one round of voting.) If the nomination is seconded, the nominee is through to the voting stage and the nomination process beings again. If two candidates are nominated and seconded, a simple, show of hands vote is performed. It’s a reasonable assumption that two councillors will side with the each person (the one they nominated or seconded), leaving the fifth, effectively with the casting vote.
According to the procedure: Should no single candidate receive a majority on the first vote, the person with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the voting process repeats. For this to happen in St Mellion, one councillor would have to abstain, leaving a 2-2 vote. Presumably the whole process then begins again with the council aware they must try to resolve the previous deadlock. It’s unclear what happens if only a single nomination is seconded. Perhaps that nominee is an uncontested winner?
I look forward to seeing how this works in practice.