Row over ‘part-time’ councillors

Coun Tony Williams
Coun Tony Williams
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A POLITICAL row has erupted over plans to move council meetings later in the evening to allow councillors who work full time to attend.

Blackpool Council’s Tory leader Tony Williams has hit out at what he called “part-time councillors” saying they should spend more time working for residents.

The issue of moving meetings from 5pm to 6pm was raised at the full meeting of Blackpool Council on May 14.

The move was proposed by council leader Simon Blackburn but Conservative members criticised and challenged the change.

Coun Tony Williams said: “Every councillor knew the commitment they had to make when elected.

“If members cannot make important meetings, they should have considered this when they ran for office, if they can’t attend now they should stand down.

“I appreciate people have to earn a living, most employers understand if staff need to leave early for council duties.

“However if Labour councillors can’t get to the town hall by 5pm and are happy to sit in meetings until 8 or 9pm, when are they going to spend time on their wards looking after the interests of constituents. It’s the residents who will miss out, Part time councillors should spend more time working for the people who voted for them.”

Coun Williams says meeting at the later time will prevent members from attending events in their wards.

Councillors receive around £6,000 a year in allowances to help with the costs of the role.

Coun Blackburn today hit back to defend the decision.

He said: “Coun Williams is attention seeking yet again, and deliberately misunderstanding the situation to try and make a political point. Full council meetings have started at 6pm for many years. Now we’ve opened up many more committees to public speakers, it makes sense to hold all major meetings at 6pm.

“This assists the public who wish to attend but who are currently excluded due to work commitments. Many councillors have day jobs and as we have a much younger and more diverse council than ever before.

“This is a further example of Coun Williams not living in the real world and trying to score political points instead of supporting us to deal with the town’s major issues.”

Coun Howard Green, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he was supportive of the move to the later time.

He said: “I did actually support the move to later meetings because I think we need to attract younger, more active councillors.”