In accordance with the instructions of the Council at its meeting on 26th April, 2006 a record of elected Members’ attendance at council, committee, sub-committee, panel and outside bodies meetings and member training sessions during the municipal year 2008/09 were submitted for consideration. As previously requested by the Standards Committee, a separate report on elected and co-opted Members’ attendance at meetings of the Standards Committee during the same period was also submitted.
During the presentation of the report, the Chair drew attention to the fact that publication of the information gave an opportunity for members of the public to see and judge how their Members performed in this area of their work as a councillor.
Concern was expressed that in some instances members had valid reasons for non-attendance at meetings and the Committee considered ways in which this could be reflected in future reports. The Member Services Manager suggested that, Members who, during the year under review, had experienced exceptional circumstances which accounted for a significant number of absences could be invited to explain the reason for their attendance record and a footnote to that effect could be added to the Report. The Committee accepted that on practical grounds explanatory notes could only be allowed in exceptional circumstances as the reporting of reasons for individual absences would be impracticable.
A Member drew attention to the generally poor attendance record of Members at compulsory training sessions and suggested that this might be due in some part to sessions being arranged at short notice and coinciding with other meetings. The problem of meeting dates coinciding with other commitments was also raised in respect of meetings of outside bodies.
The Member Services Manager indicated that as far as was possible all compulsory training for 2010/2011 was to be incorporated into the Council’s corporate meeting diary which was to be submitted to Council for approval in November. This would give Members advance warning of all training dates and hopefully outside bodies, particularly local ones, would have some regard to the calendar of meetings when fixing their meeting dates. Another recent measure introduced to help improve Member attendance had been to offer two alternative dates for the same training session in the hope that Members would be able to attend one of them and would not be penalised for non-attendance at the other. This approach could be adopted in respect of training sessions which were subsequently added to the approved Calendar of Meetings.
A Member suggested that in addition to the current annual performance monitoring report, each committee, sub-committee or panel should receive annually a report on the attendance of its Members. There was some discussion on how this suggestion would work in practice and the Member Services Manager was asked to report back with possible proposals on this matter to the Committee’s next meeting.
(a) That the Members’ attendance records for 2008/2009 now submitted be noted.
(b) That a report formalizing the proposals outlined above and providing suggestions on how the attendance reports for individual Committees etc could work in practice be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee.