Revealed: The councillors with poor attendance records

THE POOR attendance of some Boston borough councillors at meetings has been revealed by The Standard.

Using data released under the Freedom of Information Act, we can name the elected members who have not turned up to meetings where they were due to represent voters.

However, those with the poorest records have hit out at the way the council is run and say many of the meetings are pointless.

English Democrat councillor David Owens, who represents the Fenside ward, has the worst record – showing up to just four of 33 possible meetings since the 2011 borough election.

Young Conservative Aaron Spencer, from the Five Village ward, attended just over half of the meetings where he was a member – 11 of 21.

Fishtoft ward member Coun Helen Staples, of Boston District Independents, attended 14 of 26 possible meetings.

Coun Owens’ fellow Fenside English Democrat Coun Elliott Fountain missed 14 meetings since the election, attending 18 of 32.

Coun Owens says he has been working away from home as a retail manager but has recently moved jobs and should now get to more meetings.

He added: “Attending meetings is only a small part of being a councillor and it doesn’t make much difference. They more or less rubber stamp what the cabinet has already decided.”

Coun Owens added: “I still know what’s going on and am there for my consitutents and meet people regularly.”

Coun Spencer made the headlines when he was elected as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in May 2011.

He says getting a job in the daytime has stopped him attending many meetings and, although a member of the ruling Conservative group, said he shares frustrations at the way the council is run.

He told The Standard: “When I was running for office they said it would be great to get young blood and fresh ideas. In reality I have found it to be quite different.

“The meetings are at awkward times. I work from 9am to 6pm and when I explained this to the council they don’t seem to listen.

“I love helping people in my ward and do a lot for the community. Sitting in a meeting where everything has already been decided really isn’t what being a councillor seemed all about.

“My opinion is that if the council was run logically like a business for the best of the town rather than for an agenda it would be a lot better.”

He said his offer to run as the countries youngest mayor was dismissed and stressed he always votes the way he wants – not the way the party would like.

Coun Spencer added: “I do try my best but I do think that the attendance record is a poor way of measuring how a councillor is representing the community. It’s the easy part.”

Coun Staples said her absence can be put down to illness and caring for her mother-in-law but she feels that opposition members can make little difference by attending and airing their views.

Coun Staples said: “I am elected to represent the people who put me there and if I can go I will go. You have to balance your home life and other interests.”

She feels issues like the Assembly Rooms sale and introduction of parking charges for disabled people shows that cabinet members do not listen to their concerns.

Coun Staples added: “If there is something you disagree with, particularly at the full council, they vote en bloc and do what they are told.

“It’s hugely frustrating. We are attending council meetings but whatever we say we cannot change things. We can’t represent the people.”

Coun Fountain (pictured left) says he attended meetings at the start of the council term but now feels ‘powerless’. He also said he balances his role with business and family commitments.

Coun Fountain said: “We are powerless. The cabinet runs the council. Basically three or four councillors decide what they want to do and the Conservatives all vote like sheep.

“To be honest the meetings are a complete waste of time. Sometimes you have got a meeting at 6.30pm and you know you are going to listen to three or four middle aged men who don’t know about Boston talk for three to four hours.”

He said he deals with many of the social issues affecting Fenside on a day-to-day basis.

According to the data released to The Standard only Coun Yvonne Gunter has attended all possible meetings since the 2011 election – making 51.

Coun Gunter, a cabinet member, said: “Every meeting that I have attended has been worthwhile.

“If you want to keep up with what’s happening in Boston and the surrounding areas then you need to attend because it’s so important.

“Fair enough the new councillors might find it a bit daunting but in that case they should attend more. You don’t learn if you don’t attend.”

THE FIGURES:

Attendance records of borough councillors since the 2011 election:

Alison Austin: 34/35 (9/9 this year, 25/26 last year)

Richard Austin: 27/31 (4/4, 23/27)

Mark Baker: 22/26 (6/6, 16/20)

Peter Bedford: 24/25 (6/6, 18/19)

Mike Brookes: 33/37 (7/9, 26/28)

Colin Brotherton: 38/41 (7/7, 31/34)

Maureen Dennis: 34/38 (7/7, 27/31)

Elliott Fountain: 18/32 (2/7, 16/25)

Mike Gilbert: 31/34 (7/7, 24/27)

Paul Gleeson: 44/46 (8/9, 36/37)

Paul Goodale: 26/28 (5/5, 21/23)

Yvonne Gunter: 51/51 (8/8, 43/43)

Paul Kenny: 29/33 (4/6, 25/27)

James Knowles: 18/25 (4/6, 14/19)

Alan Lee: 23/24 (7/7, 16/17)

Richard Leggott: 17/19 (5/5, 12/14)

Paul Mould: 52/53 (10/10, 42/43)

David Owens: 4/33 (1/6, 3/27)

Frank Pickett: 37/39 (7/8, 30/31)

Derek Richmond: 42/45 (10/10, 32/35)

Brian Rush: 33/40 (7/8, 26/32)

Gurdip Samra: 24/30 (6/6, 18/24)

Raymond Singleton-McGuire: 25/31 (6/6, 19/25)

Judith Skinner: 18/24 (4/6, 14/18)

Gloria Smith: 27/33 (7/8, 20/25)

Ossy Snell: 22/27 (2/5, 20/22)

Aaron Spencer: 11/21 (2/5, 9/16)

Helen Staples: 14/26 (3/5, 11/21)

Carol Taylor: 25/33 (6/7, 19/26)

David Witts: 20/30 (5/8, 15/22)

Stephen Woodliffe: 36/39 (7/7, 29/32)

Mary Wright: 38/43 (8/9, 30/34)

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