St Edmundsbury Borough Council stats reveal the best and worst councillors for meeting attendance

West Suffolk House

West Suffolk House - Credit: Archant

A councillor attended fewer meetings at St Edmundsbury Borough Council than a member who had died part way through the year, according to the latest meeting attendance figures.

The revelation comes after data labelled as ‘meaningless and misleading’ by the authority was finally published, a month since they refused to do so.

The statistics revealed that the worst performing councillor, Adam Whittaker, on 33%, attended fewer meetings than a fellow member who had died during the 2013/14 period.

John Hale, who died in June 2013, attended 100% of his scheduled two meetings and an additional two on top of that.

Mr Whittaker, who attended just three meetings for the entire year, defended his record, pointing to his full-time job and work for residents outside of the council chamber.

When told the news, the Conservative member said: “I hadn’t realised it was so low. I am standing down in May due to work commitments.

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“I don’t think it is fair to say that [I have not worked hard enough] at all.”

He said he was available on the end of the phone for his residents at all times and his attendance did not reflect the work he put in.

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The figures also revealed that during the period when the data was not open for public scrutiny, the average attendance dropped to below the 80% benchmark.

The average for the bottom half dropped down to below 70%, compared to 75% the previous year.

Despite this decline, eight councillors racked up a perfect 100% record, including chief defender of the ‘don’t publish’ policy, David Ray.

The cabinet member for resources and performance said: “We took the decision some time ago that the attendance, through the system on the new website, will be published.”

He said he stood by his previous comments, claiming the attendance data did not give a full picture.

“Some people are also county councillors so they may make it to all meetings, some have full-time work,” he added.

Independent councillor David Nettleton, along with Eric Pickles MP, coalition cabinet minister for local government, demanded the council publish the figures back in October.

The Risbygate ward member said: “I would say a good benchmark is 80%, if you drop below that then you would have to look at whether you are doing enough.

“People say councillors don’t work long hours, but we do, it [attending meetings] is a very small percentage of what we do, but it is an important part.”

The third worst living councillor was Paul Simner on 54% but he failed to respond to calls to both his numbers and his council email, over the past two days.

Terry Buckle, who attended 39% of meetings, unfortunately suffered health problems and is standing down in May.

Bottom six

Les Ager (dead) - possible meetings 7, meetings attended 1 -14%

Adam Whittaker - possible meetings 9, meetings attended 3 - 33%

Terry Buckle (Mayor) - possible meetings 18, meetings attended 7 - 39%

Charlotte Howard (dead) - possible meetings 4, meetings attended 5 - 50%

Paul Simner - possible meetings 13, meetings attended 7 - 54%

Bob Cockles - possible meetings 21, meetings attended 12 - 57%

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