LIBERAL Democrat Mick Scholes has become the newest member of Saddleworth Parish Council after a Conservative challenge to his co-option failed to obtain sufficient support.
Cllr Scholes takes over the Springhead Lower seat of Richard Darlington, 87, who resigned on health grounds last month.
His first-time appointment takes the Council back up to full strength with 20 members.
The Tories had argued unsuccessfully against the co-option which was passed with 10 votes in favour, five against and three abstentions.
A heated exchange of views took place at the June full council meeting prior to his election.
Cllr Pam Byrne said: “I was surprised to see this on the agenda because I wasn’t aware Cllr Darlington had resigned in writing.
“It does not automatically fall to the Liberal (Democrat) party to decide who they can co-opt.
“As far as I am aware we would have put forward a candidate ourselves for that ward but the opportunity had gone.
I didn’t know it had been advertised, or where or when it had been advertised. So, I am going to oppose it though I have no personal objection against Mr Scholes.”
Cllr John Hudson said: “We have got several people on this council who were not voted in. That’s not good for the parish and not good for Saddleworth people. I think it would be better to wait (for an election).”
Parish clerk Sharon Hibbert confirmed due process had been followed. She said the vacancy was advertised on council notice boards in Springhead and at Uppermill Civic Centre with OMBC’s elections officer, Julie Bruce, also notified.
“There were no applications,” added Mrs Hibbert.
Cllr Darlington, who lived in Grotton, was elected in May 2019 as one of five Lib Dems for the Springhead Lower ward. He polled 639 votes.
Cllrs Helen Bishop (Independent) and Cllr Donna Simpson (Conservative) were elected at the May 2021 elections to fill vacancies left by Neil Allsopp and Alan Belmore.
Cllrs John Battye (Labour) and Rob Knotts (Conservative) were co-opted in March 2020 following the resignations of Saddleworth First members Duncan Goodman and Carl Roberts.
In proposing the co-option of Mr Scholes, Cllr Al Hamdani first paid tribute to Cllr Darlington.
“I would like to say thank you to Richard Darlington for all the work he has done.
“I don’t think you could find a more honest, hardworking person anywhere.
“I am incredibly grateful to him for all the work he has done for the council, the area. I am very sorry to see him go.”
He added: “Mick Scholes is very hard working and shown commitment to the area.
“He would be an excellent person to be part of this Parish Council to work for the betterment of the area.
Cllr Kevin Dawson said: “A harder more thorough worker I have not known. I think he will be a plus to this council. He is diligent, I like him.”
Cllr Al Hamdani added: “We have done exactly what we were supposed to do.
“It is misleading to suggest that process in some way has not been followed or electorally it should not be done in this way.
“I would like another hardworking councillor taking his place on the council rather than abandoning people for two years before another round of elections.”
Cllr Brian Lord added: “Why someone would want to change this now I fail to understand. It is part of our standing orders.
“Does Cllr Hudson want to get rid of standing orders that have just been agreed? It beggar’s belief.
“Let’s not start another year with arguments – let’s do what we have always done and stood with the standing orders.”
Cllr Battye said: “It has been custom and practice since at least 1975.”