A new system of monitoring councillors who only attend parts of meetings could be introduced in Rotherham, a senior local authority official, has confirmed after a political campaigner raised concern about the current arrangements.
If a councillor attends a meeting at the start, they are shown as present regardless of when they leave and Michael Sylvester – a former councillor who now campaigns on community issues in the town – has expressed concern about that.
As a result, James McLaughlin the council’s democratic services manager has agreed that changes could be introduced.
Mr Sylvester cited an “extreme” case from some years ago, where a former councillor repeatedly attended meetings only for a few minutes in an apparent move to prevent the ‘six month rule’, where councillors who do not attend for that period can be disqualified.
He said: “It is obvious that some councillors are not in attendance for the whole meeting either arriving late or leaving early and often not being present for significant items of business.
“I would argue to keep my councillors properly accountable as a citizen I need to know if they are actually present when a decision is made or an item of business is discussed and would ask if it could be recorded in the minutes the time, if a councillor arrives late or leaves early, or if it could be recorded if they are not present for a particular item of business.
“From a layman’s viewpoint, if I’m late for work or ‘knock off’ early then I would face repercussions and feel the same should apply to councillors.”
He has been told by Mr McLaughlin that he had raised “a valid query” and said “I am currently exploring how we can record this”.
Mr Sylvester has previously highlighted the attendance record of Rotherham councillors, which showed some were frequently absent from meetings – arguing that those who claim the council’s cash allowances should be obliged to attend.