Yesterday, Cllr Rob McLaren was removed from the Conservative group on Wisbech Town Council.
Almost immediately, the usual suspects begin frothing at the mouth and making nasty comments, pretty much as they always do.
I like Rob McLaren. I think he’s a nice guy and I’ve always got on pretty well with him. I am sorry to see him go.
But there are a few things wrong both with what the Hatefest crowd are saying and also with the newspaper article in the Wisbech Standard.
First, calling Rob McLaren “lazy” is wrong. He isn’t lazy, and that is not what the Leader of Town Council said at all. Rob has been removed from the group because of ongoing poor attendance and poor conduct – the latter being related to poor attendance.
In the last six months Cllr McLaren has not attended a single Town Council meeting of the Full Council or of any Town Council Committee. Even in the six months before that he was barely seen at all. He has not helped at any festival or Town Council organised event in the last year. He has not turned up at any of the civic functions which Councillors are supposed to attend.
Rob has been given every chance to amend this. He has been asked to be sure to turn up on multiple occasions and has not done so. Just before the last meeting of Full Council the Leader of Wisbech Town Council contacted Rob and reminded him that this was his last chance to attend; she contacted him by email, by Facebook messenger and by post. Rob did not turn up.
This means that Cllr McLaren will imminently fall foul of the six month rule. This isn’t a decision of Town Council, it is the law. If a Councillor fails to attend any meeting for six months they cease to be a Councillor. Cllr McLaren cannot now fix this, because there is no further meetings before the deadline of his six months. In view of this repeated failure to meet the minimum standards required of a Councillor, of course the Conservative group had no option but to remove him.
At the moment, he is still a Councillor, but now he is an Independent Councillor. Once the six month rule reaches its limit, he won’t be a Councillor anymore.
Now Rob has been quite clear about the fact that this was his decision. He has said today that he “sacked himself” at Christmas, and I think that’s broadly correct. It isn’t as though the Conservative group have not tried to give him every opportunity to return. If he no longer wished to be in the Conservative group he could have simply announced he was “crossing the floor” and been an Independent, or any other party he chose, and continued to attend meetings and do his own thing. He didn’t.
Again I’d like to stress that I like Rob and I have a lot of time for him. He is a nice man and he is often willing to help others. He has a big heart. But I am disappointed by his comment that he was being “suppressed” on Town Council, simply because not only is this not true – it’s not even possible.
There is nothing to stop any Councillor saying whatever they want to say in a Town Council meeting. No group or member has the power to “sack” them as a Councillor. They can remove them from a political group, but they still continue to be a Councillor. So there is no physical way at Town Council level for anybody to be coerced into anything they don’t want to do. It is particularly difficult for it to happen to Rob McLaren simply because none of us ever saw him. He didn’t turn up for meetings or functions or group meetings – or at all, really.
It seems to me as though Rob has gotten very busy since he went self-employed and – this is just my personal opinion – he has been focusing on developing his business more. All power to him, he’s great at what he does and seems to be doing very well. I really do wish him all the best and I wish that he’d been able to turn up to recent meetings in order to prevent his falling foul of the six month rule. Unfortunately, he chose not to. But that was entirely his choice and nobody elses’.