Councillors slammed for absenteeism

A local government veteran has taken county councillors to task for missing meetings.

George Ryan, a councillor elsewhere in the country for 26 years, told the latest meeting of Northumberland County Council’s south east area committee that he had been trawling through records and found that one member had attended only 31 meetings out of 58 but still been paid an annual allowance.

He estimated that, on average, members missed a third of the meetings they were supposed to attend.

If an expenses-per-meetings-attended system were introduced, he reckons £200,000 a year could be saved.

“That is a lot of public money to be given to people who don’t come to do a job they are paid for,” Mr Ryan told the meeting, held at New Hartley.

“Anywhere in industry, they would be fired.

“I do object to my money being taken for councillors who persistently miss meetings.

“When you take on being a councillor, you make a commitment, not to a party but to the people who elect you, who you represent.”

Coun Grant Davey, of Kitty Brewster in Blyth, said that although that suggestion sounded like a good idea, the allowance was important for equality as it put everyone on the same footing.

People could not attend every meeting, said Coun Anita Romer, pictured, of Hartley, because they worked shifts, were ill, had family commitments or meetings clashed.

She did conceded that some members were persistent absentees but added: “I apologise if you think our allowance is too great, but we work very hard for what we have.”