Council cost cutting concerns

East Dunbartonshire Council Headquarters

East Dunbartonshire Council Headquarters

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An independent councillor has raised concerns about plans to hold council meetings during the day instead of evenings.

Bearsden Councillor Duncan Cumming is worried that the move by East Dunbartonshire Council may result in less people wanting to become councillors and also prevent members of the public from attending meetings.

Mr Cumming said: “Many councillors have full-time or part-time jobs with daytime working hours and they can only come to evening meetings.

“At the moment we have a diverse range of people from all walks of life and professions who are councillors.

“I’m worried that as a result of these changes fewer candidates will apply and the diversity of councillors and talent pool will be reduced.”

While councillors earn a salary for their role of about £15,500 per annum Mr Cumming says this would not be enough for many councillors to live on alone.

He added; “Being a councillor only lasts as long as you are elected so not many people would want to give up their full-time career for a political career which will not last forever.

“Many people would agree that it would be unwise to put all your eggs in one basket.”

The other problem, he says, is that members of the public would need to request time off work to attend daytime meetings and employers may not always be sympathetic.

And Mr Cumming is concerned that if people need to take unpaid leave or holidays so they can attend public meetings they may just not bother.

Mr Cumming believes that the change has been proposed to save money on energy bills but he doesn’t think it will cut costs significantly.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “As Councillor Cumming is well aware, we are having to consider options in all areas to find the additional £5.9 million in savings we need to make next year, on top of nearly £50 million reductions in recent times.

“It is only right that we look at councillor working practices and facilities as we also transform our organisation and workforce.

“Moving to daytime meetings is only one of a series of measures, including Smart working for councillors which will reduce paper and printing costs with meeting reports issued electronically and business functions being able to be carried out remotely.

“Daytime meetings will not only save energy costs with buildings not needing to remain open beyond core office hours, but the associated employee costs of evening work will also be saved.

“Meeting during the day is consistent with the vast majority of other councils and it is only right that savings are identified from councillor working practice as well as across the rest of the workforce.”