Vote for me! I’ll attend full council 44% of the time

In recent weeks, we’ve seen increasing questions raised about Councillor Rehman Chishti’s ability to juggle several jobs, and how much time he has left to be an active councillor for Rainham Central. As we pointed out previously, in recent years, he has turned up at less than half of full council meetings. Following this, we decided to analyse the attendance rates of all 55 Medway councillors.

First of all, some caveats to this data: We have used the attendance data made available from Medway Council, so if any councillor believes our data is wrong, we’d suggest they take it up with the council. Secondly, we are only analysing attendance of full council and not other committee meetings. While we may look at those in the future, full council is the only meeting where all councillors are expected to attend, so it creates a level playing field. Finally, we have used percentage attendance rather than number of meetings, so we can create a fair comparison between the 52 councillors that have served a full term so far, and the 3 elected in by-elections.

Getting the least interesting thing about the data out of the way first, it’s remarkable how consistent each of the parties are in their attendance.
Since the May 2015 local elections:
– the Conservative group have had 89% attendance
– the Labour group 90%
– the UKIP group (such as it was) 88%.

The data starts to get a little more interesting when we look at the data for individual councillors:
– 11 of our 55 councillors have attended 100% of full council meetings since they were elected.
– 27 of them have missed no more than one.

At the bottom of the table, we found five councillors that have only attended 71% of the time:
– Diane Chambers (Con, Hempstead)
– Rodney Chambers (Con, Hempstead)
– Sam Craven (Lab, Luton & Wayfield)
– Anne-Claire Howard (Ind, Twydall)
– Asha Saroy (Con, Watling)

As well as one who has only attended 67% of the time. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be Rehman Chishti (Con, Rainham Central).

The full data of attendance in this period is available here.

An interesting aside to this is that Cllr Anne-Claire Howard was recently deselected by the Conservatives, and claimed she was given ‘poor attendance at meetings’ as a reason for this. Given that Cllrs D Chambers, R Chambers, Saroy, and Chishti are all Conservatives from the same association, will they be facing the same threat of deselection? We somehow suspect that is unlikely. Though they didnt respond to our #LE2019 survey to confirm if they were standing, so we guess the possibility is there.

These numbers look starker still when we just look at meetings from the 2017/2018 political year to present, where two councillors:
– Diane Chambers and Rodney Chambers, have only attended 56% of the time.
– Asha Saroy and our old friend Rehman Chishti have only attended 44% of the time.

The full table of attendance in this period is available here.

Now we’re by no means suggesting councillors should or would be able to attend every single council meeting. But we do have to wonder in how many jobs the average person could turn up for work less than half of the time without any consequences.

Last week we asked every councillor exactly how many meetings a councillor should be expected to attend. You can find their answers here. You can judge for yourself their answers compared to the reality of the situation.

What do you think? Have you ever been able to turn up to your job less than half of the time and for no one to think that’s an issue? How would you feel about your colleagues doing so? Is this remotely acceptable for anyone in public office? As usual, let us know in the comments.

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