West Suffolk: Figures reveal councillors’ attendance rates

West Suffolk House in Bury, the Council Public Services Village.

West Suffolk House in Bury, the Council Public Services Village. - Credit: Archant

A BOROUGH hall boss has claimed it is a councillor’s ‘job’ to go to meetings, as new figures reveal the attendance of some elected members has dipped to 53%.

The statistics show that St Edmundsbury Borough councillors attended an average of 81.6% of full council and other formal meetings between April 1 2012 and March 31 this year.

Out of the 44 councillors listed in the annual figures, which will be presented to the democratic renewal working party on May 2, only four had 100% turnout.

Dave Ray, resources portfolio holder and Tory representative of Barningham, attended all six full council meetings and all 18 of the other formal meetings, plus an additional 20 meetings.

He said: “I think first of all, that’s our job, to represent our people and attend council meetings to ensure our views are taken into account. However, I have to say there’s a matter of luck in gaining 100% attendance, because all of us are busy people.

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“Some councillors have full time and part time work and other commitments and often it is difficult to attend all the meetings. I certainly haven’t achieved it over my 11 years on the council every year.

“I do my best, because I think attending the meetings is important, it’s what we are there for.”

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Mr Ray added: “I’m a portfolio holder, so, although I’m not a member of some committees, I attend not as a voting member, but to keep abreast of what is going on.”

Gordon Cox, who represents Haverhill East, also chalked up 100%, with 33 meetings on top of his six full council meetings and three formal meetings.

Patrick Chung, of Southgate, attended 14 additional meetings on top of formal and full meetings.

Julia Wakelam, who was elected as Risbygate councillor late last year after the resignation of Joshua Hordern, attended all of her meetings since November.

Council documents state that two Conservatives – Rebecca Hopfensperger, who represents Fornham and Jeremy Farthing who represents Haverhill West – had the lowest attendance. According to the report, the pair went to 53% of the full council and formal meetings possible during the year – a total of five out of six full councils and four out of 11 formal meetings.

Mrs Hopfensperger, who was elected in 2011, and Mr Farthing, who was first elected in 1999, receive a basic allowance of £5,184 per year.

However, the statistics do not record a number of activities carried out by councillors such as attending workshops, internal meetings and dealing with constituents’ enquiries.

Neither was available for comment yesterday.

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