'Missing' politician faces ban

AN ABSENT councillor could be kicked out of office for not turning up to a single meeting in the last six months.The move poses a serious threat to Labour's 25-year rule over Civic Centre in Ipswich.

AN ABSENT councillor could be kicked out of office for not turning up to a single meeting in the last six months.

The move poses a serious threat to Labour's 25-year rule over Civic Centre in Ipswich.

Rushmere Ipswich Borough councillor Robert Ray-Dobson won his seat in 2002 and was not due to seek re-election until 2006.

But he is believed to have last attended a council meeting on September 17 last year.

Councillors have to attend at least one official meeting every six months to retain their seat.

Now Conservative Party agent Ben Redsell has written to Ipswich council chief executive James Hehir to ask for Mr Ray-Dobson's disqualification.

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"We've checked all the meetings and according to our records he hasn't attended any since September 17," said Mr Redsell.

"These days there are a lot of smaller meetings that qualify, like council panels - but we don't think he's been to any of them either."

Mr Ray-Dobson is a member of the council's scrutiny committee but Mr Hehir confirmed he had not attended any full council or scrutiny meetings since September 17.

"We are checking all our records to see if he has attended any formal council panels during that time to produce a report which should be completed very soon," he said.

Council officials have told the Star that they do not think Mr Ray-Dobson has attended any meetings on official borough business over the last six months.

Mr Ray-Dobson lives in Ipswich but works in London. Today he said he believed he had been to official council meetings within the last 12 months.

"I do not want to make any comment on this," he added.

Deputy council leader David Ellesmere said the Labour group was aware of the investigation.

"We would hope all councillors take a full and active role in borough business - but I cannot comment on this case while the investigation is underway," he said.

Mr Ray-Dobson represents the marginal Rushmere ward on the council. The Conservatives won the seat in the ward last year, and are hopeful of winning the other Rushmere seat that is up for election this year.

If they won both seats, they could tip the balance of power on the council and leave Labour without an overall majority.

"We would be very, very disappointed if we didn't win Rushmere this year - it is high on our list of targets," Mr Redsell said.

nIs it right to disqualify councillors who don't turn up at meetings? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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