There were heated exchanges at Peterborough City Council’s Full Council meeting last week concerning the long-term absences of two councillors.
Cllr Mohammed Nadeem (Conservative, North) has been paid more than £1,300 as chairman of the Employment Committee, but missed all three meetings he was due to attend before resigning.
Cllr Nadeem said he had been absent due to his parents’ ill health in Pakistan.
He told the Peterborough Telegraph that he had fulfilled his other responsibilities to the “fullest” and had handed over all of the £1,380 Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) he had received as chair to charity, although he did not specify which ones.
Cllr Julia Davidson (Labour, Gunthorpe) has not attended any meetings since March 2018.
The PT understands this is due to personal reasons. Members have to turn up to one meeting in a six month period or could be made to quit, but council leader Cllr John Holdich has given her a six month extension.
Cllr Davidson has not yet responded to requests for comment.
At last week’s Full Council meeting councillors were debating a motion tabled by Cllr Christian Hogg (Lib Dem, Fletton and Stanground) asking for the council’s Standing Orders to be amended so committee chairs can be removed due to poor attendance, and be forced to return their SRAs.
Cllr Shazia Bashir (Conservative, North) defended Cllr Nadeem, saying: “The councillor concerned has been away for personal reasons.
“His parents have been ill and he has been caring for them not knowing how long he would be away.
“Cllr Nadeem was not relying on the allowance as he is a city businessman, and I would argue that before fingers of suspicion are pointed at him the other house should get its own matters in order. What about Cllr Davidson? Nothing has been mentioned about her. She has been away for a very long time.”
At which point Cllr Bashir was shouted down by most of the Labour councillors.
Cllrs Ed Murphy (Ravensthorpe) and Mohammed Jamil (Central) both tried to speak over Cllr Bashir, who turned to them and shouted back: “We are all supposed to be responsible councillors in this chamber. I haven’t finished Ed so don’t butt in.”
Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Chris Ash, who was chairing the meeting, tried calling for order, but Cllr Bashir exchanged more words with Cllr Murphy: “You’ve had your say this evening Ed, now let me finish, I’m entitled to speak as well.”
The Mayor finally brought proceedings back to order, asking Cllrs Murphy, Jamil and Angus Ellis (Labour, Bretton) why they were on their feet.
Cllr Ellis said: “It is a point of order Mr Mayor. I just think it’s outrageous that she should name names. We all knew who Cllr Bashir was talking about, but then to go and on and on – it’s unprofessional and demeans the office of councillor.”
Cllr Murphy said: “I’m speaking on a point of order Mr Mayor, you should’ve put a stop to this outburst, and instead we have heard some pretty nasty things said about another councillor.”
But Cllr Bashir would not stand down, and said: “Mr Mayor I want to finish what I was saying, it is my right to be heard.”
The Mayor, after taking advice from the council’s legal officer, allowed Cllr Bashir to finish.
She added: “Accountability to the people of Peterborough needs to be in all areas. Not just as chair of a committee.
“We must look at a councillor’s record and the amount of times they attend meetings. Are they absent from their roles and not replying to emails? Within their own political groups the leaders need to address these issues to take care of accountability.
“I will support this motion from Cllr Hogg - it addresses us altogether and applies to everyone.”
The motion was passed.
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service