Weekly paper the Brentwood Gazette has highlighted the level of work, or lack of, by local councillors by producing a set of top trumps for its readers, in an innovative use of the Freedom of Information Act.
The 37 playing cards see local politicians judged on areas such as talk time, attendance records, allowance and political clout.
It comes following heavy criticism of previous reports on councillors’ attendance at meetings and how much each had spoken at town hall debates, with members claiming that contributing to town hall debates was not a true measure of a councillor’s merit.
They instead argued it was down to how much case work they had logged – but the ‘Top Toilers’Top Trumps revealed that two councillors had failed to report any residents’ problems in the past nine month and that 15 out of 37 have logged less than one piece of casework per month.
The figures were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The Gazette followed up a front-page story with a double-page investigation by reporter Iain Johnson and a centre-page spread of Top Trumps cards for readers to cut out and play at home, created by designer Alex Leys.
Editor Nev Wilson said: ‘Despite the moans and groans, councillors have, it seems, taken our findings seriously. Attendance has improved considerably and members have been falling over themselves to have their say at meetings since our article was published.
‘But after each story, the excuse that the complete picture was not provided was hurriedly trotted out from the town hall. This week, following more figures prized from our ‘open and transparent’ borough council through the Freedom of Information Act, we really have put the power in the hands of the public.
‘Our fun approach based on the classic card game allows taxpayers to see for themselves just how hard their elected representatives are working for them.”
He added: ‘We’ve already cut out, mounted and created our own set of cards for the office, which we’ve been playing this morning.”