Councillors back detailed register over meetings

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A MORE detailed list of meetings attended by councillors is to be made public in a bid to be more transparent.

Councillors in Hartlepool have backed plans to produce a detailed register so residents can clearly see which councillors attend which meetings, including fire and policy authority meetings.

It has been agreed to expand the existing spreadsheet to include councillors attending meetings as observers and also those that are substituting for other councillors.

Only attendance at meetings will be recorded and they will be split into two categories; formal meetings, which are attended by officers from the democratic services team, and others, which include police and fire authority meetings.

It comes after a council working group was set up to establish what and how members attendance should be recorded and published.

It met several times and councillors say “extensive discussions” took place before deciding what should be recorded.

A range of options were considered including expanding the existing spreadsheet, which is maintained by democratic services staff, or developing a database.

Members said they were aware of putting extra pressure on staff at a time when cuts are being made.

The working groups recommendations were reported back to the scrutiny co-ordinating committee in February before final approval at a recent meeting of the full council.

Labour councillor Marjorie James, chair of the scrutiny co-ordinating committee, presented a report to members.

The report said: “In discussing the options available, the need to minimise resource implications in the light of ongoing budgetary constraints and reductions of resources across the council was acknowledged.”

Meanwhile, the council’s Hartbeat magazine also includes a series called ‘The Life of a Councillor’ which details which meetings and residents’ groups they attend.

The working group was initially set up to examine the issue of attendance, allowance and expenses claimed by councillors in response to the national furore caused by the expenses claimed by Members of Parliament.

It had previously been agreed to publish exact details of allowances and expenses claimed by each of Hartlepool’s 47 councillors, plus Mayor Stuart Drummond, including basic allowance, any special responsibility allowances, conference travel, conference fees and telephone expenses.

The full details had been available under Freedom of Information Act requests, but were not published as a matter of course.