Councillors defend attendance record

SP57021 Chesterfield Town Hall
SP57021 Chesterfield Town Hall

The poor attendance of Chesterfield borough councillors at meetings has been revealed by the Derbyshire Times.

Some elected members have not turned up to more than half the meetings where they were due to represent voters.

However, those with the poorest records have hit out, saying there is more to being a councillor than spending time in the town hall.

Liberal Democrat Alexis Diouf, who represents the Walton Ward and gets an allowance of £5,463.67, has the worst record – showing up to just 42 per cent of meetings since the 2011 borough election.

Labour councillor Neil Rayner, who represents the Old Whittington Ward and receives an allowance of £3,918.12, attended just 13 of 29 possible meetings and West ward member Liberal Democrat Denise Hawksworth, who gets an allowance of £6,972.18, also attended only 45 per cent of possible meetings.

Cllr Diouf said his absence had been down to looking after his poorly mother and added: “As a councillor, I feel that 75 per cent of my time should be devoted to talking to residents.”

“As for full council meetings they are rituals between politicians as rarely decisions are reversed there,” he said.

Cllr Rayner said he held regular advice surgeries and met residents in their homes.

He added: “In my election campaign in 2011 I met with hundreds of people in Old Whittington. Their priority was clear, they wanted a representative that was more active in the community and not just a councillor that spends all their time in the town hall.”

Cllr Hawksworth said she had missed meetings due to illness but added residents’ meetings, training and surgeries were not included in the data.

“Full council meetings are a necessary ratification vehicle, although they are an opportunity to indulge in party political point scoring,” she said.

Two councillors - Liberal Democrat Barry Bingham, who represents the Barrow Hill and New Whittington Ward and gets an allowance of £4,377.00 and Staveley’s Labour councillor Anthony Hill, who gets an allowance of £4,080.78 - attended all meetings.

Cllr Hill said: “Going to meetings is only one part of a councillor’s duty. Some have other commitments.”

Council leader John Burrows who receives the largest allowance of £30,826.53 attended 96 per cent of his meetings.