Mar 05 2013

Harrow Councillors – Are they working for you?

harrow_council_logoA Harrow Councillor gets a basic allowance of £8160 pa just for being a councillor. But how do you measure how effective they are? We’ve tried emailing them all, to see if they respond – and a paltry 16 our of the 61 we emailed got back to us.

Another way is to look at their attendance at meetings, and see how many they actually turn up for. This is flawed, because a councillor who is expected at, for example, 50 meetings through the course of the year, yet makes only 45 of those would have an attendance rate of 90%, whereas a colleague who only has to five meetings, and misses none, would score a better 100%.

Another way is to look at the number of meetings they attend – it’s not infallible: a councillor with added responsibilities would (a) attend more meetings, and (b) get paid more for doing so.

So, we present a combination of all the stats.

Most Meetings Expected For – this chart shows the ten councillors who where scheduled to attend the most meetings during 2012, although this may not be the number they actually turned up to:

Expected Councillor Name, Group and Ward
51       Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar (Lab, Roxeth)
44       Cllr Susan Hall (Con, Hatch End)
43       Cllr Keith Ferry (Lab, Wealdstone)
42       Cllr Mano Dharmarajah (Lab, Roxbourne)
40       Cllr Bill Phillips (Lab, Greenhill)
40       Cllr Krishna James (Lab, Marlborough)
39       Cllr Paul Osborn (Con, Pinner)
39       Cllr Sue Anderson (Lab, Greenhill)
36       Cllr Husain Akhtar (Ind, Canons)
36       Cllr Jerry Miles (Lab, Roxeth)

Most Meetings Attended – the top ten who actually made it to a scheduled meeting:

Present Councillor Name, Group and Ward
46      Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar (Lab, Roxeth)
42      Cllr Keith Ferry (Lab, Wealdstone)
39      Cllr Susan Hall (Con, Hatch End)
37      Cllr Paul Osborn (Con, Pinner)
36      Cllr Jerry Miles (Lab, Roxeth)
35      Cllr Husain Akhtar (Ind, Canons)
34      Cllr Mano Dharmarajah (Lab, Roxbourne)
33      Cllr Bill Phillips (Lab, Greenhill)
32      Cllr Krishna James (Lab, Marlborough)
31      Cllr Sachin Shah (Lab, Queensbury)
31      Cllr Barry Macleod-Cullinane (Con, Belmont)

And, a look at the bottom end of the scale – those councillors who attended the fewest number of meetings. This list shows the bottom 10 councillors:

Present Councillor Name, Group and Ward
4       Cllr Stanley Sheinwald (Ind, Hatch End)
5       Cllr Christopher Noyce (Lib, Rayners Lane)
5       Cllr David Gawn (Lab, Harrow on the Hill)
5       Cllr James Bond (Ind, Headstone North)
5       Cllr Mrs Lurline Champagnie OBE (Con, Pinner)
7       Cllr Lynda Seymour (Con, Belmont)
9       Cllr Marilyn Ashton (Con, Stanmore Park)
10      Cllr Janet Mote (Con, Headstone North)
10      Cllr Navin Shah (Lab, Kenton East)
10      Cllr Yogesh Teli (Con, Kenton West)
10      Cllr Mrs Rekha Shah (Lab, Wealdstone)

Note – Christine Robson (Lab, West Harrow) was recently elected, and has been removed from this table with a nil score.

It’s an interesting analysis: the busiest eleven councillors ( 7 Labour, 3 Conservative and 1 Independent) attended an average of 36 meetings last year. The least-busy councillors attended far, far, fewer. Can we call these councillors lazy? Should we? It’s important to note that there are about ten Council meetings and ten cabinet meetings through the course of the year, so each councillor might want to hit , say three-quarters of those. Perhaps anything less than fifteen meetings per year is a reasonable indicator of a councillor not fully engaged?

And what’s our opinion? In the bottom class, we have Criminal David Gawn – he was probably too busy flustering up a defence to give council matters any attention last year. We’ve also seen Cllr Marilyn Ashton, who is a fan of long holidays – she’s the one who trotted off during the West Harrow by-election, seemingly deserting her party in their hour of need). We hear that husband David is back in the race for the 2014 elections for the Canons seat, now that Cllr Husain Akhtar has shafted the electorate there who voted in a Tory and get lumbered with an Independent a few months back when he jumped ship.

Cllr James Bond surprises us with such low attendance, given his fairly good reputation locally. Talking of surprises, Cllr Will Stoodley, of Where’s Willy? fame, doesn’t make the bottom class, having hit the magic 15 meetings in 2012, although a borderline Cllr Nana Asante (the deputy mayor and fairtrade champion) hit 14, although we understand she’s been distracted of late. Cllr Kairul Kareema Marikar, the other West Harrow councillor along with Cllr Will, also scores 14.

It’s also good to see the Leader setting an example to his group, by romping home in first place with a score of 46, beating Cllr Keith Ferry by four meetings, and Cllr Susan Hall by seven. It’s also interesting to see that two of the Roxeth councillors (Cllrs Idaikkadar and Miles) scoring so well, but Cllr Raj Ray coming a poor last with a score of eleven, a third of that which his colleagues managed.

Download our full results here, sorted by ‘expected’ attendance or get it yourself from Harrow Council’s website. And of course, if your councillor is making their presence felt, free free to ask them why.

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  1. Praxis Reform

    If we assume that all meetings are of equal value, then a simple percentage score can tell us who are the most / least involved Councillors.

    But, the article seems to be suggesting that some Councillors have a greater value than others – presumably by virtue of their being a member of the majority party, and thus being able to award themselves the plum appointments, which presumably also results in their gaining additional requirements to attend meetings, along with the larger stipend.

    In this instance, we can simply compute a “score” for each Councillor by multiplying the number of meetings at which the Councillor’s attendance is required by the number of meetings missed.

    So, were Cllr Bond to miss a meeting, this would be worth 5 points, whereas if Cllr Idaikkadar were to miss a meeting, this would be worth 51 points.

    I’ve recomputed the data, and graphing the results shows a sharp change in gradient after 12 Councillors, so people may want to look at the performance of those individuals further:

    Name					Expectd	Absent	Miss %	Score
    Cllr Kamaljit Chana (Con, Pinner South)	30	15	50.00%	450
    Cllr Sue Anderson (Lab, Greenhill)	39	9	23.08%	351
    Cllr Mano Dharmarajah (Lab, Roxbourne)	42	8	19.05%	336
    Cllr Krishna James (Lab, Marlborough)	40	8	20.00%	320
    Cllr Bill Phillips (Lab, Greenhill)	40	7	17.50%	280
    Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar (Lab, Roxeth)	51	5	9.80%	255
    Cllr Phillip O'Dell (Lab, Wealdstone)	33	7	21.21%	231
    Cllr Susan Hall (Con, Hatch End)	44	5	11.36%	220
    Cllr William Stoodley(Lab, West Harrow)	24	9	37.50%	216
    Cllr Zarina Khalid (Lab, Queensbury)	19	8	42.11%	152
    Cllr Sachin Shah (Lab, Queensbury)	35	4	11.43%	140

    As with any statistics, there may be genuine reasons why Councillors missed meetings, ill health, family problems, work commitments, etc. but more interesting would be to use a larger dataset and regression analysis, to examine whether there is any correlation between, for example, Councillors skipping meetings held on Fridays or meetings held on the same days as major football matches, etc.

  2. A much better analysis that I could have done.

    I think there’s more work – and more comment to come – on this issue. From what I understand, a councillor has only to attend a meeting every six months to remain a councillor. So two meetings a year, say two hours each, to get their £8k. That works out at about £16 per minute – not a bad deal, really…

  3. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    None of you have any idea how it works and I don’t mean that in a patronising manner, it’s just really complicated. You can’t create a mathmatical formula that fairly represents it nor would a Councillor get away with the six monthly minimum for many reasons too detailed to tap out on an iphone. It’s why I will not be drawn into a discussion on attending meetings. The Council stats also don’t take into account surgeries – James Bond holds one every week – where does that put him when your mathmatical formula is applied? Also all the Cabinet briefings and leadership meetings (which I attend in my capacity as Chair of Harrow Labour group) are not in the Council stats so you don’t know who is attending or missing those as they are held in private! Then there’s panel pools and committee reserves. If a meeting is held between ward Clllrs and Officers and 2 ward Cllrs show up there is no record of the 2 that show or the 1 that doesn’t.

    In effect the stats are useless and when first elected I raised this with Democratic Services but they claimed they couldn’t change the way the attendance stat is calculated.

    Paul – it’s one of many topics I am looking forward to discussing with you when we meet.

  4. Comment received from Cllr Keith Ferry:

    The Council website also lists the attendance for 2011 and 2010. You have to type in the dates as the previous tab doesn’t seem to work. You could then post a 3 year record of attendance.

    For me:

    2010 expected 40 attended 40
    2011 expected 46 attended 46
    2012 expected 43 attended 42

    Over 3 years missed 1 out of 129. I was on holiday for 3 days!

  5. Praxis Reform

    Over the past couple of months, I’ve been reading Michael Moran’s excellent Politics and Governance in the UK, mostly to familiarise myself with how the UK’s anachronistic law changing mechanism functions, but that’s a different matter which I’m sure none of you wish to be bored with now. Regardless, in discussing Local Government, Mr Moran makes no mention of a minimum numbers of meetings that Councillors should attend, preferring instead to talk about the functions of Councillors representing their local communities. Presumably he labours under the same misapprehension that I did, which is to assume that Councillors are committed people who take an interest in how things work, want to uphold a British way of doing things, and as such feel that it is necessary to regularly attend Council meetings.

    So, given some small consideration, I believe Cllr Stoodley is basically correct, and meeting attendance shouldn’t be calculated by a mathematical formula… Councillors are paid to attend all meetings and represent their ward constituents at said meetings.

    As someone that has never worked for the Public sector, when I found myself searching for a new employer, I was frequently asked by Representatives of so-called Employment agencies how many days sick-leave I had taken in the past year. Presumably, because it would hardly be fair on the rest of the workers at the potential new employer if I were the type of person to disappear off with Mondayitis or Man-flu every other week.

    I find that meetings are an excellent way for me to report to Directors on the progress that I’ve made with various projects and suchlike, that they’ve asked me to undertake, and to receive direction as to how they should like me to proceed, based on the current goals, priorities and objectives of the top management.

    Were I to skip these meetings, I expect that the Directors would questions my commitment to the job that I do, but worse, I would miss out on the guidance aspects mentioned, and the ability to showcase the achievements I’ve made.

    Looking at the Special Responsibilities Allowances available to councillors, I see that these start at circa £2,000, moving upward to about £20,000 if you can wangle yourself a position on the cabinet, and £31,110 for Council Leader.

    Most people will assume that you need to know the right handshake to get that type of pocket money, but for the sake of this argument, I’m going to say that the cabinet are decent, honest, hard-working Councillors, who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the role that they do – The Council Leader more so, after all, he’s awarded 50% more than a mere Cabinet member.

    Therefore, it seems only logical to me that Councillors who do not turn up to meetings are depriving those less experienced, and lower skilled Councillors of the benefits of that expertise, and although they might have been working like demons to bring benefits to their ward and it’s constituents, they are forfeiting the ability to showcase their achievements, and appearing to have done nothing whatsoever apart from collect a cheque.

    The simple answer therefore is that Councillors should forfeit pro-rata part of their allowance(s) for each meeting not attended.

    As an aside, it might be worth me noting that to my mind, if a Councillor is missing more than one or two meetings a year, they are likely overburdened with work, in which case they should drop the additional responsibilities, otherwise someone should be asking whether they need some remedial training to help them cope, or whether there is some personal reason that is stopping them giving their full attention to the role of Harrow Councillor.

    If a Councillor is suffering prolonged bad health, going through a divorce, or otherwise distracted from their role with personal crises, it seems only right and proper that they should voluntarily surrender the additional responsibilities, until they can rededicate themselves to the service of Harrow.

    Any other “excuse” should trigger disciplinary action against the Councillor.

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