WITH the notice for the May Dorset local council elections published today there are fears that many places could be short of candidates.

Dorchester councillor Richard Biggs told a recent Dorset Council meeting that he had heard that more than half of the existing 82 councillors might not put themselves forward for election again.

Until the date for nominations closes on April 5 nobody can be certain how many will seek election but the Local Democracy Reporting Service has identified 20, around a quarter, who have publicly said they will not be standing again for Dorset Council. They can, of course change their mind between now and the closing date.

One of the biggest concerns is for town and parish council seats which, even in better times, has struggled to find people willing to stand in many places.

At all levels many potential candidates, anecdotally, have been put off by online abuse councillors often suffer and the fear that many will have to face unpalatable financial decisions in the near future.

Nominations for all of the elections are open from today - March 11 - with Dorset Council staff expected to deal with around 2,000 nominations for both Dorset Council, town and parish councils across the county as well as for the position of Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner. All of the elections will be held on May 2 at more than 300 polling places across the county.

An analysis of figures for attendance at meetings, which may provide an indication of the level of commitment for Dorset Council’s existing members, shows very few councillors in the most recently available statistics reaching 100 per cent attendance.

Several recent full council meetings have been notable for low overall attendance.

The council’s official figures show Dorchester independent councillor Les Fry topping the table for attending meetings between mid-September and March 9th – with 22 out of an expected 26 meetings. He was also listed as attending an additional three meetings.

The 100 per cent attenders in the period were –  Lib Dem leader Cllr Nick Ireland and Green Party group leader Clare Sutton; Cllrs Belinda Bawden; Derek Beer; Laura Beddow; Kelvin Clayton; Richard Crabb; Barry Gorringe; Jill Haynes; Carole Jones; Andrew Kerby; Jon Orrell; Jane Somper; Clare Sutton and David Walsh.

Those with less than 50 per cent attendance in the period were Rod Adkins; Graham Carr-Jones; Rebecca Knox; Julie Robinson and Maria Roe.

There are several councillors who, with council agreement, are not expected to meet their quota due to long-term illness and have been given a dispensation not to attend meetings. These have not been included in any of the figures shown above.

It is acknowledged that the data from the council list does not illustrate the complete picture with actual attendances on council business, in most cases, higher than listed because the figures are only recorded for formal meetings.

Many other sessions are also attended by councillors, either as informal sessions, site visits, discussion groups, or training,  and none of the figures capture the amount of time councillors spend dealing with residents and their queries and problems.

The full list of recorded attendance can be be viewed on the Dorset Council website at – https://moderngov.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/mgUserAttendanceSummary.aspx

Details about the forthcoming elections and how to stand, or register for postal or proxy votes, as well as issues around the necessary ID to vote, can be found at on the Dorset Council website by searching for May 2024 elections.