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26/Nov/2013 – Boundary Commission confirms plan to cut 9 District Councillors

posted 27 Nov 2013, 06:37 by Unknown user   [ updated 3 Dec 2013, 02:51 ]
histogram, average number of voters per councillor, England

THE independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has recommended that the number of District Councillors be cut by 9 from 56 to 47. Beacon Street Area Residents' Association chairman Bob Smith said: "BSARA welcomes the Boundary Commission's recommendation.This cut is long overdue. Following the cut the average District Councillor will represent 1,718 voters, still 5% below the median for two-tier District Council's in England." Refer histogram to the right.

The announcement follows a 6-week public consultation which ended on the 14th October 2013. The Boundary Commission have published the consultation responses on its website. Here is a summary of what the politicians and residents said:

  • Conservative (currently 55* councillors) — No submission made!
  • Labour (currently 10 councillors) — No change.
  • Liberal Democrat (currently no councillors) — Cut by 18 to 38.
  • BSARA — Cut by 16 to 40.
  • General Public — Overwhelming support for a cut and a widely held view that many councillors fail to make a meaningful contribution.

* — One vacancy. Mike Friars (Chadsmead) disqualified for 6-months non-attendance.

BSARA stance has received wide-ranging support, especially references to the failure to adequately represent the electorate.

It seems likely that elections will continue to be fought along party lines. The onus is therefore on local associations to ensure that quality candidates are presented for election and that they perform if elected.

Tarring all Councillors with the same brush would be wrong. There is obviously a wide spectrum of ability and engagement in Council business and with the public. In BSARA's view, the rump of inactive Councillors is simply too large. Cllr Mike Fryers has now been disqualified as both a City and District Councillor. In both cases for 6-months of non-attendance. BSARA is disappointed that fellow Councillors failed to bring this matter to a head by either forcing his resignation or publicly stepping in to take on his responsibilities. It is incongruous that the District Council prosecutes housing benefit claimants who fail to "promptly report a change of circumstances" while continuing to pay allowances and expenses when a Councillor goes AWOL. The Council should ensure that money can be clawed back in such circumstances.

Consultation on ward boundaries

The Boundary Commission has announced a further consultation about a new pattern of wards so that each of the 47 councillors represent roughly the same number of voters. This consultation end on 3rd February 2015. The results will be used for the next Distict Council elections in 2015.

Fit for the future

BSARA's told the Boundary Commission that a reduction in the number of Councillors should be be accompanied by a slimming down in the Council’s management and governance arrangements.

At present the District Council is undergoing a “Fit for the Future” review which aims to deliver services with less money. The Council's told the Boundary Commission said that our Councillors and their committees cost over £850,000 p.a. (refer table to the right), almost 10% of the Council's controllable budget.

Has the time not come to look again at:

  • the costly bureaucracy involved in decision making; and
  • how much councillors cost in allowances, expenses, perks and pensions?

Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, announced a consultation into the gold-plated pensions for local councillors, which are taxpayer funded. At a time of austerity it seems iniquitous that Councillors and their perks remain ring fenced from the cost cutting agenda.

BSARA's letter to the Boundary Commission can be downloaded here.

Boundary Commission letter to the Chief Executive of Lichfield District Council can be downloaded here.