Controversial councillor Jeff Milburn 'disqualified' from office after knife offence - by-election will take place to fill seat in Cleadon and East Boldon
A South Tyneside councillor has been “disqualified” after receiving a suspended jail term for carrying a knife with him to court.
This week, it was revealed that Jeff Milburn had been barred from continuing in the civic role due to a sentence passed down at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on July 20, 2020.
Mr Milburn, who represented Cleadon and East Boldon as an Independent Conservative member, was found to be in possession of a bladed article when he attended the same court earlier in the year on January 10, 2020.
After pleading guilty to possession of the item – a lock knife – he was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a £121 victim surcharge and £85 in court costs.
He was also given a community order and the court ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the weapon.
South Tyneside Council’s constitution, which reflects Government guidance, states that anyone who is given a jail term of three months or more, whether that is suspended or not, can no longer act in the role.
In a statement, the council confirmed that Cllr Milburn’s disqualification did not come into force earlier because of an appeal being pursued against the suspended court sentence.
As this is “no longer the case’, the council confirmed, Mr Milburn is no longer a councillor and a by-election will be held to fill his vacant seat.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said: “The sentence of four months disqualifies Mr Milburn from being a councillor as it passes the threshold as set out in law.
“The disqualification did not take effect whilst there was an appeal against the sentence being pursued.
“As that is no longer the case, Mr Milburn can now no longer act in the role.
“A vacancy in Cleadon and East Boldon ward was declared at the meeting of Borough Council on July 22, 2021, and the process of arranging an election to fill the vacancy has begun.”
As a councillor, Mr Milburn was a member of a number of committees including, most recently, the General Purposes Committee, Housing Performance Panel, Licensing/Regulatory Committee, Planning Committee and West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum.
He also served as a Conservative councillor until spring 2019 when he was expelled from the party after claims he had used racist language, an allegation he has always denied.
South Tyneside Council’s constitution sets out the rules and thresholds for the disqualification of a councillor, some of which applied to Mr Milburn.
It reads: “Any person who is the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order or has been sentenced to prison for three months or more (including suspended sentences) during the five years before election day or has been convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court is disqualified from being a councillor.”
A vacancy was officially declared at a meeting of the full council on Thursday at Temple Park Leisure Centre.
Councillor Pat Hay, Mayor of South Tyneside, told the meeting: “I’m required to declare that a vacancy has arisen in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, namely the seat which has been occupied until recently by former councillor Jeff Milburn.
“Council will now proceed to publish a notice of vacancy without delay and take all necessary steps to arrange for that vacant seat to be filled by the way of a by-election, which is required to take place no more than 35 working days from when the date of notice is published.”
Details of the by-election are expected to be published on South Tyneside Council’s website in coming weeks.