ANDREW Gilbert is right (Letters, September 3) when he says that it is unrealistic to expect every councillor to attend every meeting. Inevitably, health or family pressures will intervene from time to time. But a long run of non-attendance by district co
ANDREW Gilbert is right (Letters, September 3) when he says that it is unrealistic to expect every councillor to attend every meeting. Inevitably, health or family pressures will intervene from time to time.
But a long run of non-attendance by district councillors, such as we have seen recently in Fenstanton and previously in Buckden, is a legitimate matter of concern. The present rules allow councillors to attend one meeting every six months (including working parties or task groups) in order to qualify for their remuneration of £4,100 a year. Perhaps these rules need to be made stricter?
Andrew Gilbert is also right when he says that the fact that many council meetings are held during the working day makes it difficult for those who are employed to be good at attending meetings. Councillors must be retired, wealthy enough to take time off without pay or have a very sympathetic employer.
That is why the Liberal Democrats have consistently proposed that full council meetings should be held in the evenings, as he now suggests. We have also argued that it would be better to hold these meetings in secondary school assembly halls across the district, rather than always in Pathfinder House. This would give the electorate a better chance to see democracy in action.
Using school halls in this way would have obviated the need for a formal council chamber in the new Pathfinder House and this would have reduced the size of the building and the cost of the project. The money saved could have been used for capital projects with greater benefits for Huntingdonshire residents.
Councillor PETER DOWNES
Leader, HDC Liberal Democrats