BETWEEN 4% AND 14% OF VALE COUNCILLORS DON’T TURN-UP TO COUNCIL MEETINGS

Empty chairs: Penarth Conservative Councillor Anthony Ernest has carried out his own investigation into the attendance records of Vale of Glamorgan Councillors

Empty chairs: Penarth Town Conservative Councillor Anthony Ernest has carried out his own investigation into the attendance records of salaried Vale of Glamorgan Councillors

Vale of Glamorgan Labour councillors – including some from Penarth – have emerged badly from  an independent attendance-survey carried out by Penarth Town Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

His independent survey (made by trawling through the minutes of all 7 Full Council meetings held in 2016)  has been carried out in the wake of the Vale Council’s unwillingness to publish councillors’ attendance data since 2012 – or even for last year .

The data shows that, out of only 7  Full Council Meetings held in 2016,  the 47 salaried councillors [who between them share a total annual salary bill of £826,310] had an absenteeism rate of between 4% and 14%   .The figures do not include the several council committees or the meetings of the Vale’s 5-person ruling “cabinet” .

Cllr Anthony Ernest, Conservative Plymouth Ward

Cllr Anthony Ernest, Conservative Plymouth Ward

Cllr Ernest says the survey  “shows up some interesting facts” , and indicates that “Labour has a bad record, especially in Penarth, whilst Plaid also has some absentees, as do the Conservatives  mainly in the rural areas of the Vale”.

Another issue is the failure of some councillors to present their formal apologies (as they should do)  when they fail to turn up at meetings.

These are the dates of last year’s meetings of the “full” Vale Council – i.e. the meetings at which all 47 councillors should normally be present  – and the names indicated on the minutes which record who was absent.

January 25th 2016

  • 7 Councillors out of 47 Absent
  • Those Absent were: Bertin (Independent Barry), Janice Birch (Labour Stanwell) , Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell), Keith Hatton (Plaid Dinas Powys), Maureen Kelly-Owen (Cons Plymouth Ward), B. Penrose (Independent Sully), Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

March 2nd 2016    

  • 3 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: Audrey Preston (Cons St. Brides), Steffan Williams (Plaid Baruc Barry), Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

March 10th  2016

  • 3 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: Jeff James (Cons Rhoose), Mark Wilson (Lab Cornerswell)   + 1 AN Other

April 27th  2015

  • 5 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: Janice Birch (Labour Stanwell ), Clive Williams (Cons Plymouth Ward) , Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

July 20th 2015

  • 2 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: Keith Hatton (Plaid Dinas Powys), Steffan Williams (Plaid Baruc Barry)
     
    September 26th 2016
  • 6 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: John Drysdale (Labour Illtyd Barry), Keith Hatton (Plaid Dinas Powys), Hunter Jarvie (Cons Cowbridge), Rhona Probert (Labour Illtyd Barry), Ray Thomas (Cons Llandow/Ewenny).

    15th December, 2016

  • 4 Absent out of 47
  • Absent: Chris Elmore (Labour Castleland Barry) who is also MP for Ogmore, Audrey Preston (Cons St. Brides), M. Wilkinson (Labour Barry), Chris Williams (Independent Dinas Powys).

 

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17 Responses to BETWEEN 4% AND 14% OF VALE COUNCILLORS DON’T TURN-UP TO COUNCIL MEETINGS

  1. Lisa Evans says:

    To be fair, it looks it looks pretty even to me. It’s every party, not just Labour looking bad according to those findings

    • cpissarro says:

      How, precisely, does revealing information cynically withheld by the Council an act of “gutter politics”? The point is one of transparency, and as stated, no party comes away unscathed. Meeting attendance is basic information, easily collated, and should be shared as a matter of regular business.

      Unfortunately, if councillors cannot fulfil their duties due to poor health spanning a year and a half, then they should stand down until they’re fit again.

  2. Colin Davies says:

    I’d hardly call a survey carried out by a generally vindictive Ex- County Councillor as being “independent” either…

  3. Lindsay says:

    This so-called “independent survey” doesn’t seem to prove much. An average attendance rate of about 91% seems pretty good. Absentees are fairly evenly spread across the political spectrum and those with no political affiliation. There are, I’m sure, acceptable reasons for the average four or so councillors who “fail to turn up” at each meeting.

  4. Kevin Mahoney says:

    To be even fairer the main driver for my motion for councillors attendance records to be published on the Vale website is that those attendance records for all meetings are available for public examination as other local authorities do all over the UK, I believe that this is a basic transparency exercise.

    I think that you will find that most councillors have a perfectly acceptable attendance record however there are one or two whom I have noticed do appear to be absent more than most.

    One particular practice that I have noticed and it appears to me is on the increase is councillors turning up being marked present and then leaving well before the end of the meeting having gained a ‘present’ mark In fact I once saw a councillor attend a meeting fail to get elected as chairman of a committee and disappear barely twenty minutes into a meeting but of course would still have been marked present.

    I have of late seen a massive increase in councillors leaving well before the end of full council meetings whilst the long period of ‘questions to the cabinet’ are held. These sessions can sometimes be described as not always the most captivating of ‘question or answer sessions’ however i feel that not only is it courtesy to stay untill the end and listen to these but there is also an implied duty to stay until the end of the meeting. The leaving of quite a number of councillors during these times has increased massively of late and I feel is a growing embarrassment to the council.

    Again I do offer the caveat that the leaving of the occasional councillor might well be for a perfectly good reason ( dashing home to attend to a sick or needy family member for example, or a sudden feeling of being unwell) however the numbers of late leaving early might suggest otherwise as a latest practice.

    I feel that any councillor leaving before halfway through a meeting should have this noted in the minutes along with an explanation given by that councillor ( which may be perfectly acceptable to all) if they wish. Again long term trends can then be picked up by the public.

    I notice the same faces indulging in these practices over and over which may or may not be for a perfectly good reason, however I feel that explanations are called for.

    As can be seen in my Email to Jeff Wyatt head of Democratic services reproduced in a previous i have suggestted a caveat that councillors are allowed the opportunity to list understandable reasons for absence.

    For instance Chris Williams of Dinas was absent with apologies on the full council meeting on the 14th Dec ( not the 15th as reported) because he was in hospital undergoing a hip operation.
    I also know that the only full council meeting missed this council term with apologies given by Bob Penrose of Sully in January was also because of him undergoing a long awaited hip operation at that time.

    The intention of collating and publishing attendance records is that long term trends over quite some time can be noticed by local residents and questions asked of their ward representatives if need be.

    The intention is not a witchunt of councillors who have been ill on a particular evening or who have had to rush to attend a family crisis for example which is quite understandable or those undergoing operations or hospital treatment.

    This is the reason why it is all the more inexplicable that the Vale of Glamorgan are refusing to collate and publish councillors long term attendance records from this term as what they are now doing is presenting a possibly skewed impression over a short term period which may be unfair to individuals.

    Wheras by putting out the figures for the entire term of this council this gives a more balanced view and reassures residents that their representatives are fulfilling their committments and flags up concerns if any attendance figures are significantly down which may or may not have a perfectly good explanation.

  5. Chris Williams says:

    It is indeed ironic that the motion which I and Cllr Mahoney brought to Council is now used against me with regard to the December meeting.
    Just for the record, I had accepted a Total Hip Replacement operation [which I had been initially referred for in 2009], on 20th December, [result-no missed meetings] I was contacted on the 9th to be told that my op’ had been cancelled. I was then contacted at midday on the 12th to be offered the op’ the next day which I reluctantly accepted. I informed my colleagues and officers in the Vale as I wanted to cover my duties in bringing two motions to Council on the 14th.
    This was the first Full Council Meeting I have missed for more than at least a year, [haven’t checked]. Over the 16+ years I have been a Councillor my record must be one of the best.
    For the Council to seemingly protect this attendance info’ by only producing attendance records for one month is very disappointing but the facts also become more tantalising as a result and I have no doubt that the truth will out.

  6. Nate says:

    The facts just contradict the article. Generally good attendances by all councillors.

  7. AK says:

    This makes the VOG Council staff absentee rates previously reported look not so bad after all

  8. vince driscoll says:

    thank you Cllr Ernest for pointing out that Cllr Keith Hatton (dinas Powys) actually missed 50% 0f all Council meetings.Not a record to be proud of.

  9. Naturally I do not expect everybody to agree with me over “absenteeism”, but if you look at the headline statement that £826,310 divided by 47 = £17,581, then this is the average sum each of your Vale County Councillors cost the Penarth (and Dinas Powys & Sully) Council Tax payer in the last Financial Year. That is fact not fiction, and the issue of Attendance is a perfectly valid issue to address, in terms of “Best Value” and “Performance”. Of course this £17,581 figure is more than many Full-Timer workers earn in a year, so taxpayers are absolutely right to address the issue, even though there may well be perfectly valid reasons why some named Councillors miss one or more meetings, (as indeed I do on occasions !).

  10. Kevin Mahoney says:

    As I’ve already explained, the purpose of my motion is simply to continue efforts to make the Vale of Glamorgan council open up itself to the premise of openess and transparency that it constantly preaches but fails to apply, starting with attendance and voting records. I’m amazed that I have had to instigate this as I feel that it should be automatic and is in fact normal practice in many other councils throughout the UK.

    My intention is not to castigate anyone for missing a meeting through illness or being unavoidably stuck in a traffic jam on the M4 for example. I’m well aware of who the continual poor attenders are as I see their empty seats or notice them leaving early in meetings and I see no reason why the public shouldn’t also be made aware of this.

    As for the automatic recording of votes I think it only right that councillors records should be available for the public who pay their wages to examine and question those voting records if they wish to. Mr Ernest will recall my being able to highlight his and the other Conservatives decision to include proposals for over 1100 new houses in Sully and Cosmeston in their LDP plans due to a rare recorded vote published on the Vales website.

    I’m also not sure why Mr Ernest has introduced some bizarre averaging of councillor wages into the equation, since he has however, perhaps it’s worth noting the average of his own last two years earnings whilst a Vale councilor which was £32,398 per year which is even more appreciably sibstancial than the what ” many full time workers earn in a year” figure is as he puts it.

  11. Gwyn John says:

    I have not missed a Full Council Meeting since I became a Vale Councillor in May 1999, anyone is free to check my record on all my attendances. Llantwit First Independents record is impeccable.

  12. Thank you all for your comments – mostly nasty, but a few commendable. The latter few enlightened correspondents agree with me that the question of attendance at a Full Council meeting can often determine issues like how much your Council Tax will be next year, how often your rubbish will be collected, how much your children will have to pay for School Meals, how much your Football/Rugby Team will have to pay to hire their pitch, and a hundred and one more decisions.I will end my contribution at this stage, and thank you for your continuing interest.

  13. NewsNet says:

    Penarth Town Councillors – including Cllr Ernest – receive no remuneration. Only Vale Councillors are paid.

  14. Penarth Daily News is quite correct. Plenty of work but no pay !

    • hopenotnasty says:

      We all know PTC councillors work voluntarily and thank all of them for their work. I find the figure £32,398 OTT for an opposition representative on the Vale. Electors should remember such figures when the same people complain about lack of finances and
      Overspending.

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