COUNCILLORS will be more accountable following a decision to publish their attendance at meetings.

Last Tuesday, at a full meeting of West Devon Borough Council, members considered recommendations presented by a working group regarding councillors' attendance figures for all committee and council meetings.

The recommendations included the publishing of attendance on a quarterly and annual basis and that certain meetings be included on the published record, with the attendance threshold being set at 75%. The importance of members providing regular feedback to the council was also highlighted in the recommendations.

Lively debate was sparked by the working group's recommendation that if a member's attendance fell below 75%, they would be required to return a 'clearly defined proportion of their basic allowance'.

Cllr Robin Musgrave, ward member for Bere Ferrers and chairman of the working group, said: 'The debate turned out to be challenging — some members were unhappy with the motion.

'We have agreed that we will tell the public through the website what the attendance levels have been at community and full council meetings — we do know that there are members that are not attending meetings on a regular basis.

'We do feel that there are certain members that are not pulling their weight although the majority are very conscientious members.

'There is a need for those reports to be available, which they will be very soon.'

The working group has acknowledged that while the statistics do not take into account the casework of members within their wards or their employment schedule, there is an increased drive and emphasis upon elected member 'performance, transparency and openness'.

Leader of the council Cllr Philip Sanders said: 'I am quite happy to publish a record of members' attendance.

'However, I am concerned that just bald figures do not always paint a correct picture of the dedication or otherwise of members.

'Members might have a good attendance record, but be very poor at catering to the needs of their constituents.

'Conversely, a member who is poor at attending meetings might be very active in campaigning for their community.

'I am wholly in favour of keeping a record and I support it so strongly that I want to get it right. I am not shying away from it in any way, shape or form.'

A vote was held which saw 16 members voting in support of the recommendations and six against.