Legal loophole makes skipping council meetings easy

MK Council
MK Council

Councillors are obliged to attend just ONE meeting every six months in order to keep their seat – and the £10,000-a-year salary that goes with it.

More than 70 per cent of MK councillors have failed to turn up to all full council meetings since the election.

Between May and November last year, only 16 out of 57 councillors attended all eight.

The most prolific absentee was Conservative councillor Peter Geary who missed half of the meetings.

In November, he chose to attend a parish meeting over watching Pete Winkelman being given Freedom of the Borough, and missed two meetings to travel to Canada to see his grandfather having a building named in his honour.

Mr Geary said: “I get along to as many council meetings and committees as I possibly can. In one three-month period there were only two weekday evenings when I was not at an MK council meeting or a parish council meeting.”

Of the remaining 56 councillors, fellow Tories Denise Brunning, Andrew Buckley, Ann Clancy and Andrew Geary failed to turn up to three meetings in the chamber.

Council leader Pete Marland said: “I know all councillors work hard in many different ways, across all political parties, not just attending council meetings.

“However, when councillors are appointed to committees it is important that they try and fulfil the role they have been elected to do and represent the people of Milton Keynes in the civic offices.

“It will always be the case that for various reasons people will not be able to make every single meeting, but we are elected to serve the people and attendance is an important part of the democratic process.”

According to national legislation, councillors only have to attend at least one council or committee meeting every six months.

If they fail to do so however, the councillor will lose their seat – unless there is “special dispensation”.

Mr Marland added: “Currently the law is very clear that unless a councillor commits a criminal offence and put in prison, is made bankrupt or fails to attend a meeting for six months, that the only way to remove a councillor is via the ballot box.”

The council failed to receive apologies from councillors Carole Baume, Margaret Burke, Ann Clancy, Hannah O’Neil and Alan Webb for missing the last meeting of the year.