Activist questions why councillors decline opportunities to sit on influential committees

Michael Sylvester
Michael Sylvester
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A political activist who spotlights Rotherham councillors’ involvement level at meetings has questioned why two opposition councillors have taken up only one of five committee places open to them.

But even with their limited opportunities to take part in meetings, both still attend more dates at the town hall than some of the colleagues from the ruling Labour party, who have taken on more widespread responsibilities – according to figures he has compiled.

Michael Sylvester is a former councillor and community campaigner who monitors how the local authority functions.

The council operates through a series of committees and other bodies as well as the key decision making cabinet and full council, which meet regularly.

Those smaller bodies are made up of members from across the authority’s political sphere and while the larger parties allocate the places awarded to them, independent councillors or those from groups with minority representation are left to make up their own mind.

Mr Sylvester has now highlighted that one councillor, Lib Dem Adam Carter, does not sit on any bodies other than the full council and Mr Sylvester has written to him with an invitation to take on more responsibility.

Another councillor, independent member Coun Clive Jepson, sits on only one other body, fewer than most, leaving four of five seats available to the two untaken.

According to Mr Sylvester’s calculations, there are eight Rotherham Councillors who attended fewer than one meeting a month over a period stretching over more than two years, or since he was elected in the case of Coun Carter.

Mr Sylvester’s figures – taken from the council’s website – show Coun Carter’s attendance was better than one Labour colleague, while Coun Jepson turned up to more meetings than six other councillors.

Mr Sylvester said: “A particular problem is that non-aligned councillors have only taken up one of the five committee places available to them.”

“It is something I don’t understand, councillors should be taking the privilege to improve services for Rotherham residents at every chance they can and while low attendance through absence is bad enough, low attendance because you don’t want to is in many ways worse.

Under rules to ensure council committees reflect the political make up of the council Labour have 129 seats on committees, UKIP 35 and non-aligned councillors have five.

In his letter to Coun Carter, Mr Sylvester said: “Through communications with council officers and the political groupings it is clear that the decision on any committees lies with yourself. This is completely unacceptable and runs counter to what residents should reasonably expect from a backbench councillor”.

Coun Jepson said that if he and his Lib Dem colleague took up all five positions available, they would be sitting on more bodies than some councillors from the ruling Labour group.

Coun Carter was unavailable to comment.