Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Lib Dems Call For Evening Meetings To Attract New Councillors

In a bid to attract a diverse range of people to stand for election to Cambridgeshire County Council, the Liberal Democrats are calling for some meetings to be held in the evenings.

They want to see a shift away from meetings being held exclusively in the daytime which are often difficult to attend for those in full-time work. And they believe holding some in the early evening would give more people the chance to stand for election as councillors.

A motion calling for support for the idea will be proposed to Cambridgeshire County Council members on December 7 by Councillor Ian Manning, who represents East Chesterton in Cambridge.

It calls for two of the full council meetings and 25 per cent of each of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meetings to be held outside standard working hours which are defined as 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

And it says councillors should be given the opportunity to take part in training outside standard working hours.

Cllr Manning said: “At the moment, it can be extremely difficult for anyone with a full-time job or other daytime responsibilities to commit to attending meetings during the day. I have to take unpaid leave on occasion from my job to do so.

“This means that we can only attract those people who don’t have to work full-time or have commitments that are extremely flexible. By switching some meetings to the evening I think we will be able to attract a wider range of people and our councillors will be a better reflection of society generally.”

Cllr Sue Gymer, who represents Cottenham, Histon and Impington said: “Many of our present councillors run their own businesses or have part-time jobs or flexible commitments allowing them to work round council business. But this is not the norm for the majority of working people. How can working people be expected to participate if the first step is to take the day off work?

 “We want to encourage people from all ages and all backgrounds who have an interest in representing their communities to stand for election and that is not going to happen unless we hold our meetings at a time when they are able to attend.”

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat Leader, Kilian Bourke said: "We fully accept the importance of attracting a wider range of people to stand to be councillors, but felt that the Conservative proposal to give councillors a 25 per cent pay rise was totally inappropriate at this time.

“We feel that the same could be achieved by shifting some of our daytime meetings to the evenings.  That is why we are putting forward this proposal and I hope the Conservatives will support it."