Law Report: Councillor could not stand for seat - Parker v Yeo. Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Mr Justice Mantell and Mr Justice Latham). 24 July 1992

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The duties of a local councillor did not of themselves constitute 'work' within the area of a local authority under section 79(1)(c) of the Local Government Act 1972, so as to qualify him for election or re-election to the council.

The Queen's Bench Divisional Court granted a petition by Dorothy Ann Parker for a declaration that the election of Raymond Yeo on 7 May 1992 was void and he was not duly elected as a councillor for the City of Exeter.

Gavin Millar (Steel & Shamash) for the petitioner; Richard Price (Penningtons) for the respondent.

MR JUSTICE MANTELL, giving the judgment of the court, said Mr Yeo had been a councillor since 1983. Although he lived in Budleigh Salterton, which was outside the city council's area, he had initially been qualifed for election because he worked for a retail business in the city. But in 1990 he retired. Since then he had devoted his time to his duties as an elected councillor. He was a member of a number of committees and had been appointed to various council posts.

It was conceded that if the words 'principal or only place of work' in section 79(1)(c) fell to be understood in isolation and given a purely literal construction, there was no question but that Mr Yeo's duties as a councillor could properly be described as work, and that the principal place he performed these duties fell within the relevant area.

But the result of such a literal construction was that a person would be qualified to be a councillor simply by virtue of carrying out a councillor's duties. If that had been Parliament's intention, it should have been dealt with expressly.

Their Lordships preferred a purposive approach. In the context of section 79 as a whole, the phrase 'principal or only place of business' had to be viewed in contra-distinction to the carrying out of a councillor's duties, which was the office for which he sought election.

Parliament could not have intended that a person could be elected to carry out the duties of a councillor simply by virtue of his having carried out those duties for the previous year.

It followed that, without detracting from his conscientious service in past years, Mr Yeo could not properly be said to have had his principal or only place of work within the area of Exeter City Council for the 12 months prior to his nomination and he was not qualified to be elected.