Corby Council leader defends less than full council meetings

The leader of Corby Council has defended the poor attendance record of some councillors after full council meetings have been less than full.

Only 16 of the authority’s 29 elected councillors attended the full council meeting held at the end of last month, with nine councillors sending apologies and four others not doing so.

Leader Tom Beattie says full attendance is not always possible.

Leader Tom Beattie says full attendance is not always possible.

This follows only a 68 per cent attendance record for the May meeting, at which new mayor Ray Beeby was handed the chains.

The council has a 70 per cent average attendance record at full council meetings the full year from 2018/19.

Leader of the Labour-run council Tom Beattie said: “Being a councillor is not a full time job and a lot of members have jobs and other commitments outside of this role.

“Unfortunately, this means that full attendance at committee meetings isn’t always achievable, which is why we have substitutes on hand for every committee meeting who will step in when necessary. As always, we will continue to ensure that there are enough councillors around the table at each meeting in order to make informed decisions for the good of the borough.”

Cllr David Sims (centre) says he has been doing case work but elderly parents in poor health mean he cant get to full council meetings.

Cllr David Sims (centre) says he has been doing case work but elderly parents in poor health mean he cant get to full council meetings.

Councillors receive allowances from the council to carry out their role, which includes attending meetings. The allowance given to each Corby councillor is currently £4,566 per year. Extra amounts are also given to councillors with special responsibilities, such as those who chair committees.

Cllr Beattie, who attended seven of the eight full councils between May last year and this April, receives £13,699 for carrying out his role.

Last year the councillors with the worst attendance records were Cllr David Sims, Cllr Peter Petch and Cllr Bob Rutt.

Long-standing Conservative Cllr Sims, who represents the Oakley South ward, did not attend any full council meetings.

Cllr Peter Petch (with red lanyard) says work commitments have prevented him from attending full council.

Cllr Peter Petch (with red lanyard) says work commitments have prevented him from attending full council.

He said he has been unable to attend because his elderly parents are in poor health and need care in the evenings.

He said: “However, I do all of my case work and hold regular surgeries for residents. I answer my emails regularly and am dealing with two cases for residents at the moment.”

Labour councillor Peter Petch, who represents the Danesholme Ward, only attended one meeting.

He said: “I had a change of job which meant I was on a permanent back shift which has made it difficult for me to attend. I have also had problem accessing my council emails. However, I have tried to do as much as I can for residents.”

Cllr Rob McKellar now lives in Milton Keynes.

Cllr Rob McKellar now lives in Milton Keynes.

Cllr Bob Rutt also only attended one meeting and it is understood he has been unwell.

Cllr Rob McKellar and Cllr Matthew Reay only attended four of the eight meetings.

Cllr McKellar, who represents the Weldon and Gretton ward, now lives in Milton Keynes.

He says a video link or digital method of attendance should be introduced to help councillors with busy lives.

He said: “There is a glaring need for reform in local government, which has not been properly overhauled since 1972.

“We live in the 21st century and significant modernisation is phenomenally overdue in how council committees operate. The introduction of digital committees would allow a better cross-section of representation through improving accessibility for working people and through broadening appeal to younger generations.”

In 2018/19 the 29 councillors were paid a collective sum of £175,745 in allowances.