Outcry over daytime-only council meetings

Outcry over daytime-only council meetings

By Gareth Dennison | 11/06/2021

Outcry over daytime-only council meetings

 

ROTHERHAM Council’s only evening meeting has been switched to morning disappointing opposition members, who are calling for a bigger mix of start times.

The daytime dominance of the schedule was completed with Improving Lives being moved from 5.30pm to 10am by committee chairman Cllr Lyndsay Pitchley.

Tory group leader Cllr Emily Barley, who is on the committee, said: “With the election of 20 new Conservative councillors, the make-up of the council has dramatically changed.

“We now have a much bigger proportion of younger councillors with jobs and families.

“We also have more members with childcare responsibilities and health challenges that make meetings at certain times of the day difficult.

“Evening meetings make juggling these responsibilities easier, meaning committees can benefit from the professional experience and different perspectives that our new councillors bring to their roles.”

Cllr Pitchley said she moved the meeting because of her disability the result of suffering strokes.

She said evening RMBC meetings were more stressful, with concentration more difficult later in the day.

“I do my best and work hard and do not want my disability to be used against me or to political point score,” added the former mayor. “It’s not about politics, it’s about all working together, for the greater good.”

Cllr Barley said the group sympathised with the chairman but were still unhappy that the meetings were switched without consultation, leaving RMBC with all meetings between 9am and 5pm.

Council leader Cllr Chris Read said further conversations about the timing of meetings in general were taking place.

“We would all want these to be at the best times to maximise the participation of councillors,” he added.

“Of course that must also mean being at times that meet the needs of the chairs, including their health and disability needs.”

Cllr Charlotte Carter, Liberal Democrats, and Cllr Rob Elliott, leader of Rotherham Democratic Party, are among the other opposition members also on the Improving Lives committee.

Cllr Carter said: “The council needs to listen to a diverse range of views from people who have a wide range of backgrounds and different experiences.

“As a young, working woman, I feel that I offer a different perspective on things  and that was why I wanted to be a councillor.

“A modern and outward looking council makes it easy for those who are younger, have jobs, and other daytime commitments like childcare to attend meetings.

“They should do this by staggering them over the whole day.”

Cllr Elliott said: “Daytime meetings have been the norm in the five years I have been a councillor, and I can safely say that, whether morning or afternoon, the timings have always been problematic for most members, so a call for evening meetings would seem sensible to me.”

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