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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Are councillors measuring up?

HOW do our Copeland councillors represent us and are they worth their money?

The Whitehaven News has obtained details through a Freedom of Information request about members’ attendance at borough council meetings between May 2011 and this May, compiling a list showing the percentage of meetings councillors have attended.

Councillors say their role is about more than just attending meetings and includes working in the community. And they say there are legitimate reasons, such as family or work commitments, why some can’t attend meetings.

Coun Lena Hogg, of Egremont South, has attended 93 per cent of meetings, followed by Coun Hugh Branney, of Cleator Moor North, with 92 per cent.

At the lower end of the list, Coun John Fallows, of Newtown, has 20 per cent attendance and Coun Karl Connor, of Egremont North, has 39 per cent.

The council has 51 members representing 19 wards. Every councillor is given a basic yearly allowance of £3,063 a year – £9,189 over three years. In addition to that allowance, some are given additional expenses for extra responsibilities, including £6,178 each for five members of the Executive per year and £4,975 per year for the leader of the opposition (Coun David Moore). Council leader Elaine Woodburn is paid £25,534 (plus the basic) and although she is on the Executive, she does not receive the Executive allowance.

Coun Hogg, who is also a member of Egremont Town Council, said: “I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have a full-time job – being a councillor is like a full-time job.

“This is my first term at Copeland, so I’ve got a lot more to learn than other councillors who have been here for longer. I find the meetings interesting.”

Coun Branney said: “I’m delighted to find I’m second. I don’t expect a silver medal – we don’t do it for that. Most of us attend other committees as well and we do a lot of work in the community.”

Coun Fallows said: “I work in Runcorn which is two-and-a-half hours away. Wherever there is a meeting it’s during the day so it’s impossible for me to attend.”

He said he attends meetings when possible and passes on residents’ concerns to fellow councillors to raise on his behalf.

Coun Connor said: “I’ve said before that when I agreed to stand for election in 2011, I sought – and was given – assurances that council meetings would be held at weekends and in the evenings, because the council wanted to give working age people more opportunity to play an active role. Sadly that promise wasn’t kept.”

Council chief executive Paul Walker said: “We have always been keen to emphasise there is a lot more to councillors’ roles than attendance at scheduled meetings. Their job is to represent the people who elected them, look after their interests and ensure their voice is heard. There are a multitude of different ways they can achieve this and an awful lot of this work happens outside of formal meetings.”

  • The full attendance table is in this week's Whitehaven News
Have your say

They have to and must resign, the area needs and deserves better,they are a lot of people out there that will give the best to the town and the area, are not not just there to top up there pensions. We need and will get new blood, and people that are not associated to a political party, but people that want the best for the area

Posted by carla arrighi on 26 August 2014 at 16:57

How on earth can such a small borough have as many as 51 Councillors. That is ludicrous. Preston in Lancashire which is a city only has 57. So lets do the maths 51 x £3,063 = £156,213 to the tax payer and thats before their other allowances. How much would it have cost to keep those toilets open again? I would suggest 20 councillors would be more than enough for such a small borough,

Posted by Ian C on 24 August 2014 at 22:12

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