Are you being served?

OUR councillors attend less than half the meetings they are earmarked to go to.

The average of those in Hartlepool who turn up is only 45 per cent.

Out of 48 elected representatives serving on Hartlepool Borough Council between June 2006 and July 2007, only 27 have turned up to 50 per cent or more of meetings.

Two even failed to make 10 per cent.

The figures come from the Council's democratic services department, who noted the attendances from June 2006 to June 2007.

In that time, there was 453 meetings in all, but the figures are worked out from the meetings a councillor was expected to attend.

Throston councillor HARRY CLOUTH, Labour, is bottom of the figures with an attendance of five out of 86 expected appearances – 5.8 per cent.

Coun Clouth said: "I am aware I haven't been to as many meetings as some of the other councillors.

"I have had some personal problems, and haven't been in the best of health."

The other councillor below ten per cent is St Hilda's STEVE ALLISON, of UKIP, who attended 7.8 per cent of his meetings.

Coun Allison, who went to seven meetings in the year, said: "I attend the meetings where I am needed and have something to say.

"I did not become a councillor to sit in meetings where there is no relevance to my ward.

"Many councillors attend for the sake of it and contribute nothing.

"I happen to think councillors should be paid on what they achieve, but sitting in a meeting is not achieving anything.

"I did not become a councillor for the money as I make plenty as a consultant."

SANDRA FENWICK, Labour representative for Dyke House, was third from bottom of the table having attended six meetings.

Hartlepool Mayor, STUART DRUMMOND, has a 64 per cent attendance record with 79 out of 131.

But he was some way behind Burn Valley councillor GED HALL, Labour, who came top by attending 86 per cent of meetings – more than 10 per cent more than anyone else.

The information came from a Freedom of Information request by Greatham councillor GEOFF LILLEY, independent, who attended 64 per cent of his meetings.

He said: "I made the request because I was sick of seeing the same faces at every meeting.

"The councillors near the bottom of the list perhaps should think about whether they should be a councillor.

"It's obviously impossible to attend all meetings because of work and health, but if those things stop you attending a fair amount of meetings then is it worth it?

"I have even seen people come to a meeting, sign in and then walk straight back out again.

"The old system of payment used to give councillors money depending on attendance but now we are all given a set figure."

Councillors receive a yearly allowance of 5,410, but can receive more if they take up other positions such as a role on the police authority.

A spokesman for the council said: "The minimum requirement for a councillor is they must attend one meeting in a six-month period.

Failure to do so leads to automatic disqualification from the post."

The attendance rates for five councillors who are no longer elected representatives following the May council elections have not been included in the table on the facing page.

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