Councillors are at the apex of Havering’s democracy. Their only obligation is attending eight Council meetings a year. In Havering there’s nothing like a 100% attendance, which is astonishing. Meetings are notified a year in advance and absence should be exceptional.
Recently1 I discussed attendance at three Council meetings, January-March 2023. This received critical comments from councillors and I wondered if I was unfair. I’ve analysed all eight meetings held in March.2
Those meetings should have generated 162 councillor attendances. The actual outcome was 139. This is a 14.19% non-attendance rate. A 14% absentee rate is a key indicator of malaise in an organisation. High absenteeism is associated with organisations in decline. ‘Red Flag’ events, like absenteeism, aren’t brushed aside because they’re a cause of urgent action to rescue the situation.
Councillors aren’t employees. They can’t be sacked and managers – party leaders – can’t sanction them in a meaningful way. It’s entirely the responsibility of councillors how they perform. And they get paid regardless of their effectiveness.4
The Conservative Leader, Damian White, is faced with a dramatic problem. He can’t persuade enough of his members to fill the Conservative quota on the Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This is disgraceful and worse than absenteeism. It is contemptuous of democracy itself.
Councillors aren’t doing the people of Havering a favour by attending meetings. It’s their public service duty.
1 Havering’s Councillors: Value for money? – Politics in Havering
2 Monthly meetings calendar – March 2023 | The London Borough Of Havering One meeting doesn’t have published minutes and I don’t know which councillors were present
3 If a councillor doesn’t attend any council meeting for six months they lose their seat Part 3: The Good Councillors Guide – …ask your council