Counting the cost: Spotlight on bills for Uttlesford forum meetings

PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 August 2009 | UPDATED: 21:53 31 May 2010

POORLY attended public meetings are costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds each year to run, new figures have revealed. Questions have been raised about how cost-effective the Uttlesford Community Forums are, considering the number of people that attend

POORLY attended public meetings are costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds each year to run, new figures have revealed.

Questions have been raised about how cost-effective the Uttlesford Community Forums are, considering the number of people that attend.

The North Uttlesford Community Forum in June, held at the Mountfitchet Mathematics and Computing College in Satnsted, cost more than £1500 to run, yet attracted less than 50 members of the public.

Community development officer at Uttlesford District Council (UDC), Sue Hayden, said: "We usually have about 50 members of the public turn up to each meeting and obviously we would like more people to attend. It is a meeting specifically for the general public and it's their opportunity to speak to very senior officers from Uttlesford District Council, Essex Police and NHS West Essex."

The bulk of the cost of the meeting goes to the chairman who receives £1255 and the rest is printing costs, officers meeting allowances and travel expenses.

The South Uttlesford Community Forum, held in June at the Helena Romanes School, Great Dunmow, cost the district council more than £1300 to run, again with the majority of the cost accounted for by the chairman. In total there are six Uttlesford Community Forums a year.

"The chairman gets a set amount to run the meetings," said Ms Hayden. "They have a bigger role to play than just what they do on the night such as setting agendas and attending preliminary meetings."

She added that the forums are important because they are the only occasion when representatives from many different agencies are all together in one place with the public able to ask questions.

"People can influence what goes on as well as finding out information," she said. "Usually we find that people will come when they have a burning issue to raise. When the local development framework was being discussed we had more than 300 people who wanted to attend."

The next South Uttlesford Community Forum will be held in Helena Romanes School at 7.30pm on Tuesday September 8. Essex County Council's landfill restoration manager, Andrew Brown, will speak about the proposed rubbish tip in Dunmow.

Other speakers include Chf Insp Joe Wrigley from Essex Police, Peter Massie from Essex Highways, Chief Executive of UDC John Mitchell and Toni Coles from NHS West Essex.

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