GREENHAM Parish Council chairman Phil Barnett has been told the only way he can resign from his role is if he finds a suitable replacement – or dies.
Mr Barnett announced he was stepping down with immediate effect prior to the last parish council meeting in July.
But the association of local councils said that as he was elected for the whole year, his resignation would not be valid unless another chairman was found.
It has been a challenging two years for Greenham Parish Council and, in particular, for its chairman. Long-serving chairman Tony Forward resigned in June 2014, saying that due to increased pressure he felt he could no longer continue in the role.
His replacement, Patrick Planterose, stepped down in May 2015 – only 10 months after taking over. He said: “It’s been a tumultuous year for Greenham Parish Council.”
Then, last month, Mr Barnett handed in his resignation after just 14 months in the role, saying delays to the control tower project and personal commitments were factors of his decision.
At a meeting last week, Mr Barnett said: “Although I tendered my resignation, from a legal point of view it needs to be done at a time where a replacement is in place. Until such time that a full proposal is put forward and has been agreed I have to stay.”
Councillor Teresa King said: “Say he was taken ill, does he have to carry on on his death bed?” To which the council clerk Roger Chester replied: “The only way out, other than finding an alternative (chairman) is to die. So Phil is still chairman.”
Mrs King then nominated fellow councillor Steve Westbrook as chairman.
Mr Westbrook said: “My position is that I have quite a busy life, but I also think that this council needs somebody to take it forward. I will take on that role if the council wants me to.”
“I said I would do it if necessary. We are in a state of limbo. We could get to that meeting still without an active chairman, but it is not for me to appoint myself.”
However, in local politics, any proposal needs to be seconded by another councillor before it can be put to the vote.
On this occasion that did not happen, so Mr Barnett will carry on as chairman. And with another councillor, Pragna Hay, also expressing interest in the role, the decision was deferred to a future meeting.
Mr Barnett: “I think it would be helpful before the next meeting to have a discussion about it.”
However, Mr Westbrook indicated he might not be as willing to put his name forward again at the next meeting.