iFAQs: Min Attendance / Max Council

One of our popular features that we used to have on The Political Medway was inFrequently Answered Questions, where we’d send off questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply. As we get going on this project again, we’ve decided to start asking some questions of our esteemed councillors once again.

To get us going, we started with an easy one, and sent all 55 Medway councillors the following question:

What should be the minimum attendance percentage of full council meetings for a councillor to retain their position?

We told every councillor that they had a week to respond, and that we would publish their responses entirely unedited. All responses are published below, in the order that they were received by us.

I’m happy with current rules as council meetings in and of themselves don’t signify work going on behind the scenes with residents.  I’ve missed one full council meeting in this term.
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour, Luton and Wayfield

I have no problem in answering your question in this instance. Although we need to accept through personal reasons there will always be circumstances when a councillor cannot either attend or may be late.  I too, suffered with some health issues in the beginning of my tenure. However, without checking my own record, I think at least 75% attendance should be expected.
Cllr Gary Etheridge, Conservative, Strood Rural

Every member should aim for 100%, but inevitably there will be some occasions when it is not possible. Attendance of less than 75% over 4-year term of office or less than 50% in any one year would be unacceptable, unless there were obvious exceptional reasons agreed by the council.
Cllr Stuart Tranter, Conservative, Rochester West

There is a minimum attendance of full council laid down in the rules. Also publicity ( such as you provide) regarding a member’s attendance will allow the public to see whether they are being represented properly and cast their vote accordingly.
Cllr Rupert Turpin, Conservative, Rochester Strood and Horsted

80% but expect 100% unless illness prevents attendance
Cllr Roy Freshwater, UKIP, Peninsula

It’s a tough one…
Ideally at least 75%.
But there are always mitigating circumstances… I think attending O&S or Ward work is as important.
Oh and no maternity leave for Councillors.. 🙂
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard, Independent, Twydall

I think councillors should try to attend all full council meetings,there are comparatively few of them but we have made exceptions for bereavement and illness of course.
Cllr Teresa Murray, Labour, Rochester East

I think that this question really does not have a definitive answer. Personally I try to attend every full council, but the demands of a full time job and also parental responsibility means that at times I can not always juggle it.  On top of this, having school aged children means that the only time that I can take a family holiday is during the school holidays which has for me clashed at least on one occasion.
Some members have similar circumstances or different issues/responsibilities and not attending every meeting does not stop them doing a good job as a councillor.
So in summary, I think councillors should attend as many full council meetings as possible taking into account their personal circumstances.
Cllr Mark Joy, Conservative, Strood South

There should be no minimum ,Members should attending all council meetings,there will be exception due to illness or private matters but every effort to attend should be made
Cllr Wendy Purdy, Conservative, Watling

In reply to your email on this subject, I am sure every Councillor does their best to attend every Full Council meeting, even though this is only part of a Councillor’s duties.  The rules state that a member must not be absent from these meetings for more than 6 months, although an extension can be agreed by the Council, if personal circumstances such as illness warrant it.  I have hardly missed any Council meetings since I was first elected.
Cllr Howard Doe, Conservative, Rainham South

In my view, it should be unusual to miss a full council meeting.
Cllr David Wildey, Conservative, Lordswood and Capstone

In an ideal world councillors would be attending every full council meeting – there are sometimes circumstances like family bereavement, illness or similar which will mean councillors will not be able to attend.  There is provision in the law for someone to cease being a councillor if they do not attend any council meeting for more than six months.  In the past there have been some occasions in Medway where, on a cross party basis, that has been waived – the most recent example of that being the late Mike O’Brien.
Cllr Vince Maple, Labour, Chatham Central

Already covered in constitution. Members should be expected to be present whenever possible whilst accepting that work, family or health pressures / commitments may impact on particular attendance(s) during the municipal year.
Cllr Trevor Clarke, Conservative, Rochester Strood and Horsted

I think Councillors should try and attend every full council meeting, obviously illness or family emergency may mean there are occasions when you cannot attend. when you become a Councillor you know what your duties are and the meetings are always planned well in advance.
Cllr Dan McDonald, Labour, Gillingham North

Councillors should attend all Council meetings, but there might be times when they cannot due to illness, theirs or a family member, or through bereavement or something that prevents them.
There is a provision in law that if a Councillor does not attend Full Council meetings for six months or more they cease to be a Councillor, but we had a dispensation from this ruling when Councillor Mike O’Brien was seriously ill and could not attend.
Cllr Pat Cooper, Labour, Gillingham North

Regular readers of The Political Medway will be aware of the “miraculous” attendance last month of one well-known councillor at his first meeting this council year, following pressure on social media. People will come to their own conclusions about how acceptable his reasons for non-attendance were.
Since taking office I have been fortunate enough to have been able to attend every meeting, but it would be reasonable to assume this might not always be the case, given my caring commitments as a father, the fact that like many councillors I have a full-time job and the possibility of my own ill health.
There are legal rules around what action can be taken against councillors who fail to attend for a specific period of time, but I think there should also be some latitude in the application of those rules depending on specific circumstances, so a percentage figure would probably not be appropriate.
Equally, it is important to note that there are members with excellent attendance records who say nothing and do nothing at meetings. I would not consider them to be fulfilling their duties simply by turning up and collecting their allowance.
Cllr Alex Paterson, Labour, Rochester West

In an ideal world councillors would be attending every full council meeting – there are sometimes circumstances like family bereavement, illness or similar which will mean councillors will not be able to attend.  There is provision in the law for someone to cease being a councillor if they do not attend any council meeting for more than six months.  In the past there have been some occasions in Medway where, on a cross party basis, that has been waived – the most recent example of that being Mike O’Brien.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Labour, Twydall

It would be preferable for all members to attend all full Council meetings. The Council’s constitution does state that the minimum attendance for a sitting councillor is once in every six months, however, if exceptional circumstances arise, Council has in the past agreed to waive the constitutional position.
Cllr Jane Chitty, Conservative, Strood North

I believe that councillors should attend all  full council meetings and that absence should be formally recorded with reason given
Cllr Julie Shaw, Labour, Chatham Central

With regards to your question – What should be the minimum attendance percentage of full council meetings for a councillor to retain their position I would like to state that ideally all members should attend all full Council meetings. However, the Council’s constitution does state that the minimum attendance for a sitting councillor is once in every six months,. If exceptional circumstances arise Council has, in the past agreed to waive the constitutional position.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative, Lordswood and Capstone

Ideally, all councillors should attend every full council meeting.  However, it may be that unavoidable issues arise that prevent that happening.  They might be ill or have a family issue or there may be pressures at work.  If a councillor does not attend for six months they can be removed as a councillor, though even then that power should be used sensitively, such as for councillors who are seriously ill.
Cllr Clive Johnson, Labour, Gillingham South

I would expect Councillors to attend all full council meetings; however, of course there can be occasions when this just is not possible i.e. illness, bereavement or other special circumstances; therefore,  I believe  we have to consider it on a case by case basis to see if it is appropriate if a Councillor has missed a number of meetings.
Legally after six months of non-attendance a Councillor ceases to hold their position, this is the right sanction in some cases and in others it may be necessary to waive it.
Cllr Naushabah Khan, Labour, Gillingham South

I don’t believe there is a statutory minimum attendance at Full Council meetings; the only formal rule is that Councillors should attend at least one Council meeting within a six month period. Exceptions can be made to the 6 month rule on a cross-party basis, for example if a Councillor is seriously ill.
On a personal level, I try to attend all Full Council meetings, although there have been a few occasions during the past 12 years when I have missed a meeting due to illness or unavoidable clashes with personal commitments.
Cllr Andy Stamp, Labour, Gillingham North

Members should aim to attend all meetings of committees on which they sit, including full council. However, there will always be occasions when attendance may not be possible due to clashes with other meetings or engagements, illness, etc.
Cllr Martin Potter, Conservative, Rainham North

Where possible  Councillors should do their very best to be at Full Council meetings.
There will, of course, be times when this is not possible such as family emergencies and health reasons
Cllr Nick Bowler, Labour, Rochester East

In an ideal world it would be for all members to attend all full Council Meetings. In the Councils Constitution it states that the minimum attendance is once in every six months but as we know things happen in life and anyone may not available through unexpected circumstances , the council in the past have waived the constitutional position to help the said person. Which I think is a good policy.
Cllr John Williams, Conservative, Strood Rural

Ideally councillors will be attending every full council meeting, however there are sometimes circumstances such as family bereavement (such as in my case in 2017), illness or similar which will mean councillors will not be able to attend.  There is provision in the law for someone to cease being a councillor if they do not attend any council meeting for more than six months.  In the past there have been some occasions in Medway, where on a cross party basis , that has been waived- the most recent example of that being Mike O’Brien.
Cllr Adam Price, Labour, Gillingham North

We received no response to this question from Cllr Jan Aldous (Con), Cllr John Avey (Con), Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Phil Hall (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Josie Iles (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Andrew ‘I don’t respond to overtly political blogs’ Mackness (Con), Cllr Gloria Opara (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (Ind), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Asha Saroy (Con), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), and Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

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