Union Council turnout ’embarrassing’

A fifth of students are unrepresented at Union Council meetings due to councillors not turning up.

This academic year there have been 95 absences from the meetings which decide Union policy and influence the work of Union Sabbatical Officers.

At the final meeting, due to be held on Thursday, May 14, councillors were to discuss and vote on next year’s Union budget and decide on a possible merger of Union Links and Union Councillors into a single role.

But because so many councillors failed to turn up, the meeting was unable to take place as planned. Two thirds of the Council are required to hold votes.

The cost of each Union Council meeting is approximated at £200, which covers the cost of printing the agendas and sending them by mail to each councillor.

Ten meetings worth of agendas have been distributed this year, at a cost of £2,000.

A meeting on March 12 had to be cancelled due to a high number of submitted apologies, as well as the prospect of a small number of items on the agenda.

The Union spent approximately £4,000 on electing the Union Councillors in October.

The Council is made up of 40 departmental councillors, the eight Union Officers, and eight councillors from student groups such as the Black Students Committee and Women’s Committee.

Earlier in the year all Union councillors were invited to view the plans for the Union rebuild. The architects had made a special video presentation but only three Union Councillors, plus Finance Officer Alex Pott turned up.

Pott said: “The final meeting of the year was the most important and a chance for councillors to have a real say in the Union’s future. After only three councillors turned up to the rebuild meeting with the architects I was left feeling embarrassed by the lack of representation.”

The worst non-attendee was Jake Sampson, the Information Studies councillor, who missed seven out of nine meetings.

The Chemical and Process Engineering councillor Samuel Barrett, and Geography councillor Peter Ward missed six meetings each. Shima Tai, the councillor for the School of Clinical Dentistry missed five meetings.

The total of 95 absences from the nine meetings held this year means that there were roughly 10 councillors (20 per cent) missing from each meeting.

History councillor Joe Oliver said: “There are some brilliant councillors but Council has largely failed this year. This includes a five hour meeting where we totally failed to hold the Union Officers to account.

“I imagine people don’t turn up because the meetings are very long and boring, which means you only get student political hacks, such as myself, turning up.

“Secondly there has been a real confrontational atmosphere this year on Council, which means you have the same old select few speaking while around 20 members remain mute for the meeting’s duration.”

Dave Hurst, Union President, said: “It is always a shame when councillors can’t spend a couple of hours to come. Obviously if they are not turning up, their students are not being represented.

“Maybe we need to reduce the number of meetings next year. The final meeting was a chance for all councillors to comment on the budget but this was the night before a dissertation deadline which may explain why so many submitted apologies.”


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