Andover Town Council had voted in favour of changing its start time for full council meetings following debate.

Councillors voted to move the start time of meetings from 6pm to 6:30 following a motion from Councillor David Coole and Councillor Christopher Ecclestone. They argued that the time change would make it easier for councillors to make it to meetings, and had initially suggested a time change to 7:30pm.

Cllr Coole said: “7:30pm is a typical start time for parish council meetings, and one of the few exceptions in this area is Abbotts Ann in my ward. I am not opposed to any member recommending a start time earlier, at around 7pm, but I do feel that an 6pm start is not conducive to good member attendance as many members work.”

Following debate, and a number of amendments, the start time of meetings was changed to 6:30.

The initial motion submitted to the full council on Wednesday, August 4, was for the start time of both council and committee meetings to begin at 7:30pm. On days when town and borough council meetings are both held, this would allow a gap of two hours, rather than thirty minutes, between start times.

Cllrs Coole and Ecclestone, who sit on both councils, said it would allow a break between work and council for members.

Cllr Ecclestone said: “For those of us who finish work at 5pm, there is no time to eat anything before coming to these meetings, and as we’ve seen over the past 12 months some of these meetings go on for three or more hours.

“It’s unacceptable these meetings go to such a late hour without the ability for members to eat anything.”

Cllr Nigel Long, however, disagreed with a change.

He said: “All meetings under this mayor have stayed under two hours, so I think he [Cllr Ecclestone] is out of touch.

“We must also consider the town council staff working all day and taking stuff back to the office after the meeting, which is excessively long for staff. I will vote for meetings to remain at 6pm and urge all other councillors to do the same.”

While other councillors were broadly in support of the motion, they said that a 7:30pm start time would be too late.

Cllr Luigi Gregori said: “I’m in favour of moving meetings back. I think if you work 6pm is very difficult, and even for me, living opposite the hospital, it takes me 20 minutes to get here due to the traffic. I think 7:30 is too late though, and will propose an amendment to 7pm.

Cllr Kevin Hughes concurred, saying: “The last couple of meetings I have attended I have been a few minutes late because 6pm is quite difficult for me to make. The added complication I have is two children under four so if something happens on the way out the door they can waylay me quite a bit.

“Equally, 7:30 is far too late when you have children of that age at home, as I won’t be back to 10pm so it will disrupt their bedtime routine. I would be much happier with 6:30.”

Cllr Stu Waue, meanwhile, said a 7:30 start would possibly prevent him from attending meetings.

He said: “I have personal concerns as a fulltime worker, and a 7:30 start may prohibit me from attending as if it goes on for two hours, it would leave me only five hours sleep before driving.

“In addition, the later start will create a gap in working times for staff, who are being obliged to work late, after the closure of the office.”

However, Cllr Coole responded, saying: “The Staffing Sub-Committee passed a resolution before it was disbanded that staff would not be required to work a full day and a council meeting. Their timing would be adjusted to include the council meeting and if that meeting went on they could take time off the following day. Staff were considered in this matter and will not be pressured to work 14 hour days.”

Subsequently, a vote was held on amending the time in the motion to 7pm. This was defeated with three votes in favour and seven against.

A vote was then held for 6:30pm, with Cllr Coole voting against, Cllr Gregori abstaining, and the rest voting in favour.

A further amendment was then held to change the motion to just refer to council meetings following the comments of Cllr Richard Rowles.

He said: “Committees themselves should decide when they can meet as it would be ridiculous if members can’t make it.”

This amendment passed on the same lines as the previous vote, and a further amendment for committees to decide their own times was passed unanimously.