Councillors' hit out at attendance law
WATTON town councillors have expressed their disapproval of a local government law which allows members to attend meetings only twice a year.Members of the council's premises committee asked for a report on the prolonged absence of Brian Freeman who, despite being a Watton councillor, lives over 30 miles away.
WATTON town councillors have expressed their disapproval of a local government law which allows members to attend meetings only twice a year.
Members of the council's premises committee asked for a report on the prolonged absence of Brian Freeman who, despite being a Watton councillor, lives over 30 miles away.
They asked chairman John McCarthy to contact Mr Freeman to find out why the former police detective had not attended the council's last five meetings.
“The onus is on Mr Freeman to attend the meetings,” said Mr McCarthy.
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“Of course everybody in the town, when they elect people, would expect them to turn up, but I feel that everybody should turn up anyway. I agree, when people are elected they have a responsibility to the constituents to get involved in local matters and turn up every month, and not just twice a year, which is the minimum required by the law.
“On the other hand, we can't tell Mr Freeman what to do. He was elected by the people of Watton. Of course, I'd like to see him back at the council chambers. He did indicate to me one time that he was coming back to the next meeting and he would decide what he's going to do. I know he's got a major project at his home at the moment. We have to be patient. He's acting within the laws laid down.”
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In response Mr Freeman said he was “perfectly within the law” and insisted other councillors had missed previous meetings “without being picked on.”
“I can stand for election in England and Wales and therefore I was elected by the people of Watton, not by any councillors there. I wanted to serve the people of Watton. If anybody wants to give me a call here, I will be more than happy to help. I've served for five years and my attendance, which involved a 60-mile return trip, has always been regular.
“I've always been a very active member and very progressive,” the former London detective said.
Mr Freeman admitted he had a building project he was currently involved in.
But he added: “Incidentally I will be attending one of the meetings very, very soon. The mayor does know that.”
A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “The law says an elected member must attend meetings at least twice a year. While missing from council duties, he or she must inform the council of their absence.”