Minimum number of ward meetings will be held - council (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Minimum number of ward meetings will be held, says Waltham Forest Council
THE council has denied that its councillors have failed to organise the promised minimum number of public meetings.
Politicians in each of Waltham Forest's wards are supposed to hold at least three 'forum' meetings each year.
The system was introduced at the start of 2011 after the council controversially axed its larger Community Council meetings, which had been held four times a year.
However, as the Guardian reported last week, apparently only 13 out of 20 wards held the minimum number of ward forms in 2012.
But the council now says that all wards are on course to hold three forums within a year - because the 'year' for doing so does not start in January.
A spokeswoman said the 12 months timeframe for each ward begins when it holds its first meeting of the year.
So, for example, if councillors hold a forum in June 2012 they have until June 2013 to hold another two.
She said: "The council is on course to host at least three Community Ward Forum meetings for each ward per year as promised.
"The year is counted from that date that each ward hosts its first meeting - it is not calculated by calendar or financial year - this enables each ward to work to its own time frames to best suit the needs of their community."
The Guardian collated its data using the listing pages of every edition of council freesheet Waltham Forest News in 2012 and the authority's website.
But the spokeswoman also said that the council's website was out-of-date, meaning there was no public record of some of the meetings taking place.
For example, previously Cann Hall and Cathall wards only had two meetings in 2012 listed, when in fact there were three.
The spokeswoman said the council would update its website.
The council also says that Grove Green ward did hold three meetings, although two of them were public picnics with councillors over the summer.
In December 2011 the Guardian reported that councillors in only 11 wards out of 20 bothered to hold the minimum number of ward meetings.
The council said at the time that the scheme had been introduced in February and attendance numbers were higher than at Community Council meetings.
When the ward forum system was introduced the cabinet member responsible, Cllr Marie Pye, said she hoped councillors would hold more than the minimum number of three meetings.
However according to the council only one ward - Higham Hill in Walthamstow - is on track to hold four meetings within the space of a year.
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