Councillors express concern about lack of attendance at meetings by members of the public

By Saul Cooke-Black   |   BBC local democracy reporter   |
Friday 3rd August 2018 2:47 pm
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COUNCILLORS have spoken of the need to increase public attendance at area committee meetings.

Monmouthshire County Council is in the middle of piloting a new model in Bryn Y Cwm where the area committee acts as the sole political structure to support joint-working at a community level.

The committee, soon to be renamed North Monmouthshire Area Committee, is tasked with championing the area by raising issues of concern to residents, organisations and businesses with the county council.

One of the criteria used to evaluate the pilot, which concludes in September, is the number of issues raised by the public appearing as an agenda item.

At Bryn Y Cwm area committee meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Giles Howard raised concern about public attendance levels at the meetings.

“It is useful to talk about local matters in the area committee, that’s great, but if you look at the criteria and public engagement the meetings are a complete waste of space because nobody comes,” he said.

“When did we last see members of the public attend who were not allied to a community group or organisation?

“Until we start varying the times and go around the villages again all we are going to be doing is talking amongst ourselves albeit in a very useful way.”

Cllr Maureen Powell said people only tend to attend when there is a ‘potent’ issue affecting a lot of residents.

This was echoed by Cllr Roger Harris, who said: “If people are interested and it affects them they will come along.

“Most of the time though they are not interested until something goes wrong that they are not happy about.”

Cllr Harris suggested the committee could try changing the times to the evening to see if it would help.

But Cllr Sheila Woodhouse said it was up to councillors to “get the message out.”

And Cllr Tudor Thomas agreed, adding that the meetings offered a good opportunity to discuss local issues while bringing together town, community and county councillors.

Cllr Penny Simcock suggested sending out a broadsheet two to three times a year to let people know about what is being discussed.

Members also said it was important to increase attendance from members of community councils on the area committee.

The next Bryn y Cwm area committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 26, starting at 2pm. Venue to be arra

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