Pendle Council's daytime meetings 'adversely affecting democracy' say local Tories
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After the coronavirus crisis hit, face-to-face Pendle Council meetings were first halted and then moved onto a digital platform.
Initially, councillors were told that the new daytime scheduling was temporary, but having held Committee, Policy and Resources in the afternoon, this week sees the second month that the Area Committees are held during the day. In addition, Full Council is being held on a Friday afternoon for the first time ever.
Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, leader of Pendle Conservatives, explained: “We have complained about this continued daytime scheduling and, with the scheduling of this Full Council, we are especially frustrated. Our councillors tend to be younger than the other parties and most of us have full-time jobs.
"I am a solicitor, but we have care workers, construction industry professionals and business people among our numbers. We did not sign up for this. We cannot just drop everything. Most of us have never stopped working during lockdown and, crucially, when we became councillors, we signed up for evening meetings.
“The council claims staffing and IT issues and points out that other councils have their meetings during the day. Some other councils do have their meetings in the day, but those councillors signed up for that.
"We do understand these are unique times and that we have worked with the administration to ensure the council continued to operate throughout the pandemic.”
The Conservative Group is the biggest party on Pendle Council, with 21 councillors, although the administration is formed by a coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors.
“We believe democracy is being adversely affected”, said Coun. Mike Goulthorp, deputy Leader of Pendle Conservatives.
“We already know many of our members cannot get the time off work to attend one of the most important meetings Pendle Council has ever held. This means the residents who voted for them are not being represented, as they would be if the meeting was held in the evening.
"The next Full Council will consider whether to support the addition of another layer of governance locally in the form of the creation of a Combined Authority with a directly elected mayor.
"The argument is a complex one and there is a great deal of nuance in the proposal that deserves fulsome debate. When this important matter, which affects all residents of Pendle, is voted on, it is right that the majority of the council should be in attendance to debate and vote on it.”
Pendle Council declined to comment when approached by Pendle Today.