Walker Raises Concerns About Council Meeting Attendances
ROWALLENE area Down District Councillor Billy Walker expressed his concerns about councillors’ attendances.
At a full council meeting last night (Monday 11 March) in the Down Civic Forum, Councillor Walker said he was angry as a local charitable health group had been invited to make a presentation to the Corporate Committee but only one member of the committee had actually turned up out of a possible nine members.
He said: “We managed to get another two councillors to attend this particular meeting and quite honestly is was embarrassing for myself as a Councillor but also for the Council. I understand that other councillors may have work and other comittments but all they have to do is notify the Chief Executive if they cannot attend. If councillors generally can’t make it for a 3pm meeting then they should maybe organise an evening one to suit. This was actually changed from the evening sessions and it is clearly not working.
“I can remember a few months ago turning up to a sub-committee meeting with a senior planner and only one councillor was there. This really needs to be addressed.
“During the day I run a constituency advice office in Ballynahinch but I have an arrangement with Jim Shannon MP that if there is a council meeting that I prioritise that and simply put a notice on the door to re-signpost the clients, but that does not happen very often.
“I fully appreciate my colleagues in the Council may have full-time commitments etc but when we move into the new shadow councils next year and then the full merged council under the Review of Public Administration merger in 2015 when Down District merges with Newry and Mourne Council then councillors will be working more during the day anyway and their fees will reflect their duties more accurately.”
Councillor Stephen Burns said: “I can understand that councillors can make it to every meeting and they may have valid reasons for this. We should be in contact with the Chief Executive of we can’t attend.”
Councillor Eamon O’Neill speaking later on local government reform said: “Coming up to the RPA merger and more work in the transition committees it is vital that we do have good and full attendance and if we can’t make it we should be delegating someone else. The business has to go on. It is unbelievably important that we get this right. This has to be a priority from now.”
Councillor Walter Lyons said: “I was working during that meeting and could not make it. It is inevitable that sometimes there will be meetings I cannot get to.”
Councillor Anne McAleenan said: “We will just have to take a hard look at this again. The decision to have committee meetings in an afternoon is clearly not working.”