A BEXLEY councillor has been illegally allowed to continue in his position and receive council allowances, it has been claimed.

Bill McEwen, who represented Barnehurst ward for the Tories, has not attended a council meeting since April last year.

Despite a rule which says any councillor who has not attended a meeting for six months should cease to be a member of the council, he has continued to be listed as a councillor and has been paid around £4,000 in council allowances.

Mr McEwen, who has been ill for some years, is currently extremely unwell and had already been deselected by his party for the upcoming borough elections in May.

The decision was part of a “musical chairs” where councillors from both parties will be changing wards at the upcoming borough elections in May.

Following a letter from the leader of the council’s Labour group, Councillor Chris Ball, Mr McEwen’s details have been removed from the council’s website in the past few days.

Cllr Ball wrote to Bexley’s chief executive, Will Tuckley, pointing out Mr McEwen’s membership of the council should have been terminated at the beginning of October last year.

His position could have been safeguarded by his Tory colleagues, by bringing the matter to the council and agreeing a dispensation.

But this was not done.

Neither did any of the council’s officers bring the matter to the council’s attention.

Cllr Ball says as Mr McEwen ceased to be a councillor more than six months before the borough elections, the council should have called a by-election.

Now it is too late.

It also means the council has paid around £4,000 in council allowances to a member of the public who is no longer a councillor.

Cllr Ball said: “"I am genuinely sorry to hear Bill has taken a turn for the worse.

“As with any colleague I would wish him well.”

He added: “However, there are clearly concerns about how this situation could have gone unoticed for so long.

“Are processes not up to the job or were political motivations at work?

“We need to get to the bottom of this situation where Bexley Council appears to have broken local government laws."

A spokeswoman for Bexley Council said officers had only recently become aware of the seriousness of Mr McEwen's illness resulting in the length of his absence from official council meetings.

The council agreed Mr McEwen had not attended any meetings as a councillors since April last year.

The spokeswoman said: "Mr McEwen therefore ceased to be a member of the council on 14 October 2009.

"References to him as a current councillor have been removed from council agenda papers and associated documents."

But the council went on to say: "Section 86(1)(c) of the Local Government Act 1972 Act requires, when someone ceases to be a member because of non-attendance, the authority shall declare their office to be vacant."

A by-election would then have to be held within 35 days.

But it argued: "The vacancy does not occur until the date on which it has been declared by the council."

It said since council officers had only just become aware of the situation, no by-election had been called and because borough elections were now less than six months away, the vacancy left in Barnehurst ward by Mr McEwen would be filled at the council elections in May.

The spokeswoman said the council had stopped paying Mr McEwen’s council allowance from March 1 this year, when officers became aware of the situation.

A report will go to the next council meeting on April 14 to declare the vacancy.

Mr McEwen was too ill to comment.