30/6/09 – Council should fine Cllrs for lack of attendance
An Independent Renumeration Panel reviews and propose the level of allowances and expenses which Councillors on Swindon Borough Council should receive. The Chairman of this Independent Panel has written to Swindon Councillors for their comments on a review that is currently being undertaken.
Cllr Dale Heenan “During the last full review 4 years ago, I told the Renumeration Panel that Travel expenses should be scrapped for travelling to the Civic Offices and attending meetings. I have never claimed a penny of this expense and I never intend to, when someone is elected they know they will need to attend meetings. This time around the idea is finally being seriously considered and has the backing of the Leader of the Council!
As part of the new review occuring over the summer, I have written to the Chairman of the Independent Panel and asked that a clawback system is implemented. If a Councillor fails to attend atleast 50% of the Civic meetings they should be fined part of their allowance and return the money to the Council.
Several local authorities like Wigan and Worcestershire have a claw back scheme in place, and I see no reason why Swindon can’t. This is a powerful statement of intent to residents that Councillors will be held to account and not enjoy a free ride once elected. While it does not resolve the issue of active participation it is a start.
In January, I had to write an open letter to the Planning Committee to remind Councillors to attend the meeting and the importance of the decisions made. As Chairman I felt it was unacceptable for one LibDem Councillor to average a 35% attendance rate, and it is slowly improving. A clawback system should stop this situation happening”
“Over the last 5 years I have seen the majority of Councillors work very hard for the local residents who they represent. Attending meetings at the Civic Offices is only one part of a Councillors responsibility, and there is a lot of time spent dealing with residents problems and community issues. Each Councillor receives an allowance to cover the time and cost involved with carrying out these responsibilties. This allowance has National Insurance and Income Tax deducted so it is effectively a part time job’s salary.
Meetings at the Civic occur often and cover all parts the Councils work from scrutintizing Cabinet decisions, reviewing and proposing new policies and giving a voice to residents on the way the Council works. If a Councillor receives an allowance which includes an element for attending meetings, then they should not receive the full amount.”