Councillor puzzled after talks stall on Lancaster University tuition fees

Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox.
Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox.

A champion of Lancaster University students was left bemused after Lancaster City Council talks on rising tuition fees were thrown out on a technicality.

Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox was told the planned debate couldn’t take place because his wife works at the university as a lecturer.

The Green councillor was hoping to convince colleagues from all parties to back a campaign against a planned increase in tuition fees and on-campus rents by authorising a letter to the university vice-chancellor.

But in bizarre scenes at Morecambe Town Hall, Coun Hamilton-Cox was asked to leave the debating chamber as talks were about to begin.

He and several other city councillors were told they couldn’t participate because they had all declared links to the university.

But soon after Coun Hamilton-Cox and his colleagues left the room, they were summoned back in after council officers announced the discussion couldn’t go ahead after all.

Coun Hamilton-Cox said after the meeting: “I never expected to have to leave.

“It really puzzled me. I made my feelings clear (to officers) afterwards.

“I couldn’t really see the connection between what my wife does at the university and the motion I was trying to bring.”

The Lancaster councillor and his Green colleague Coun Jack Filmore were intending to bring a motion to Wednesday’s budget meeting asking the council to approve a letter to Lancaster University vice-chancellor Prof Mark E. Smith.

They wanted the council to express “serious concern” over a planned 2.5% hike in on-campus rents and 5% rise in international and postgraduate tuition fees.

The Greens also wanted the council to ask what the university is doing to ensure students from poorer backgrounds are able to afford their studies.

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said Coun Hamilton-Cox had declared a “pecuniary” interest because his wife works at the university.

This meant he was unable to speak about or vote on the topic.

The spokesman said: “When notice of motion is given in advance of a council meeting, a proposer and seconder must be named, and must be present at the meeting when the motion is put forward. “Councillor Hamilton Cox had been the only seconder of the motion when notice of the motion was given, and therefore, in the absence of the seconder, the motion could not proceed.”

Coun Hamilton-Cox said the Greens hoped to bring the debate before council again in April.