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Councillor claims £11,300 yet misses vital meetings

PUBLISHED: 15:10 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 10:46 12 August 2010

TAXPAYERS have blasted a councillor claiming she is missing major meetings - despite claiming more than £11,300 in allowances.

TAXPAYERS have blasted a councillor claiming she is missing major meetings - despite claiming more than £11,300 in allowances.

Minutes show that Karen Roberts, Labour councillor for Penge and Cator, has only attended one of the seven full council meetings this financial year.

She was also criticised for moving nine miles away from her ward in Penge to St Mary Cray.

Resident Shirley Homewood, 73, of Alexandra Cottages, Penge, said: "Councillor Roberts is not involved locally. Councillors should attend all the meetings if they are elected, and if they move away they should resign and let somebody else have a go. I know that she has got a young family, but if you take the money, you have to put in the hours."

Tracey Jackon, 34, landlady of the Bridge House, in Penge High Street, said: "Nothing councillors do to get money surprises me any more."

Ms Roberts' attendance prompted a formal question to the council last July, which showed that she had turned up to 29 of the 47 meetings scheduled in the financial year 2008 to 2009. This year the Penge and Cator councillor sits on a number of committees. For the planning committee, of which she receives an extra allowance of £328.43, Ms Roberts attended one out of four meetings between June and December 2009. Bromley councillors receive a basic allowance of £10,658.84, plus extra for sitting as a member of additional meetings, like planning. According to the Local Government Act of 2000, a councillor will be expelled if they fail to attend a meeting in a six month period. While Ms Roberts falls within these requirements, many feel that councillors have a moral obligation to regularly attend meetings.

Former councillor Rod Reed, 50, of Foxgrove Avenue, Beckenham, said: "This is shameful.

"Councillor allowances have trebled since 2003 so councillors should be working harder, not working less.

"After allowances were increased, this has become a moral question."

When contacted by the Times, Karen Roberts claimed that illness and "family problems" have prevented her from going to a number of meetings, but maintained her electors have not suffered.

She said: "Being a councillor is about more than just going to meetings. It is about going to schools, visiting residents and talking to people about their issues.

"Over the past 12 year I would like to think I have represented my residents well, I have never received any complaints."

The investigation by the Times also revealed a lax system of recording Bromley councillors' attendance record. An officer at the Democratic Services Department for the council admitted there are no formal checks in place to ensure that members are attending meetings, saying that "we tend to notice if a councillor doesn't arrive."

Tom Papworth, Liberal Democrat councillor for Crystal Palace, added: "I know that councillors have busy lives, but if somebody can't make meetings then they should be taken off the committees and become back benchers.

"The problem is not only her attendance record but all the questions that Councillor Roberts asked were about the Cray Valley and not Penge."

Ms Roberts said that her health has now improved, and that she will be attending more meetings in the future, adding: "I will be attending as many meetings as I am physically able to.

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