May 23 2013 Latest news:
By Laurence Cawley
Monday, April 30, 2012
SPEED reading and time-management courses are on the cards for councillors who say the amount of material they have to plough through to perform their roles properly has spiralled.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council recently asked its elected members what training they felt they needed. The council currently spends just over £8,000 on training, with an extra £2,900 available for conference attendances.
In her report to the council, scutiny officer Adriana Stapleton, told how more than half of members rated their skill level as ‘low’ or ‘medium’ in areas such as local government finance, emergency planning and handling challenging people.
Speed reading, time management and work-life balancing skills were also cited as areas members felt they were either low or medium skilled in, in more than half of cases.
The survey results have not surprised David Nettleton, who is the chairman of the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee.
He said that during his nine years on the council there had been a surge in e-mail correspondence as well as the continual production of bulky reports.
“The e-mail traffic in particular has massively increased,” he said.
“There are still a lot of paper reports – though most of them are now available online. My problem is that, as chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, I more or less have to read everything.”
Mr Nettleton, who represents the Risbygate Ward in Bury St Edmunds, said he felt his requiring spectacles now was partly down to the aging process and also to “the intensity of reading”.
A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury said: “We positively welcome councillors identifying what training they need to carry out their role, which can be complicated and time consuming especially when new legislation, such as the Localism Act, is introduced.
“Learning new IT skills, and how to manage their time effectively, for example, will not only benefit the people they represent but also their employer or business.”
The training report also showed about a quarter of councillors felt their skill level was ‘low’ when it came to using standard computer software packages such as Microsoft Word and Excel.