LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Consider councillors’ attendances

CAN I say how much I enjoyed seeing the letter from your correspondent Mr AA Fletcher last week.

That is exactly what a local newspaper column should be for: a well argued point of view making elected officials accountable even if it’s me, so thank you Mr Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher is correct that I have a contract with the electors that if my attendance falls below 90pc in a full civic year (this is slightly different to what Mr Fletcher put but let’s not split hairs) I would resign.

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That contract was affected last year by a case of force majeure where at one meeting I was legally unable to attend due to being subject to Covid isolation and to attend would have meant breaking the law.

Now I don’t know your politics Mr Fletcher and appreciate if you are a Conservative, or sorry a Boris Johnson-supporting Conservative, then you agree with breaking the law but the fact remains I attended over 90 per cent of core meetings I was legally allowed to.

As regards the number of meetings I attend I could really do with your help here, Mr Fletcher.

The number of meetings I can attend is limited due to seats on committees being allocated to political parties and I want to be on more as we have many issues that need raising across Dalton, East Herringthorpe and Thrybergh.

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The Liberal Democrats have kindly ceded me two seats, one from the start of this calendar year and one from the start of the civic year.

How you can help me, Mr Fletcher, is by persuading the Conservative group to let me have some of the committee seats they don’t want.

Currently the Conservatives have the worst record for any political group since the attendance tracker was brought in a few years ago, missing one in four meetings.

In Rother Valley there are examples where this is worse with Dinnington’s councillors missing one in three meetings and Anston and Woodsetts two in five.

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If they don’t want to attend then I will gladly take up their seats.

This may have even helped Rother Valley residents where as a result of one Conservative voting for it and two being absent a massive warehouse development was allowed on greenfield land on just the casting vote of the planning chair.

Perhaps if with my decades-long record of campaigning for brownfield over greenfield development I had had the seat of one of those three Conservatives, the result might have been different.

While I’m sure Mr Fletcher and many of your readers will, having read the councillors’ allowances on page 43 of last week’s Advertiser, be questioning those councillors with low attendance why they claimed 100pc of their money, I wonder if I might draw attention to another way on the website of tracking councillors’ performance.

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Our most important duty is to represent our constituents and my grandad, former councillor Bob Andrews, drilled this into me that our most important job is to hold weekly surgeries.

Each councillor’s biography shows their surgeries and I’m proud to offer six hours per week over three venues at evenings and weekends so working residents can more easily attend (please see Dalton, East Herringthorpe and Thrybergh section of this paper for full details).

At the time of writing five of 33 Labour councillors have no surgeries listed on their biographies on the council website, same for two out of three RDP, all four Liberal Democrats and 16 out of 18 Conservatives.

Now Mr Fletcher as I said I loved your letter, it’s what active citizens should do, and I wonder if you could help on this as the reason Labour keep power in Rotherham is very much down to many opposition councillors who have yet to pull their fingers out.

Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester