To consider a report by the Director (LD) (reference 17/081), attached.
The Council considered a report by the Chief Executive (Reference 17/81) which presented a submission on Council size to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) for approval. Members were reminded that in May 2016 the Council had requested that the LGBCE undertake an electoral review of the Borough based on an indicative reduction in councillors from 50 to 40. The two chief reasons put forward for the review were the far reaching changes in the Council’s governance since the last review in 1999, and the considerable technological advances which had affected the councillors’ representative role. The LGBCE had accepted the Council’s request and the preliminary stage of the review was now drawing to a close in which the Council through the Cabinet forwarded its view on what the future size of the Council should be. Members were advised that the initial arguments outlined in the report to the Council in May 2016 had now been developed in accordance with the LGBCE’s key criteria for determining the size of the Council and with the support of two important pieces of evidence: electoral forecasts of the Borough in 2023 and a survey of how councillors spend their time working for the authority, with a particular emphasis on their representative role in the local community. Members had raised a number of caveats around the initial proposal of 40 such as the geographical size and rurality of the Borough, the onus on councillors to engage and communicate more with their constituents, and the potential depletion in skills, expertise and experience available to the Council. These concerns had led to the conclusion that a Council size of 45 was in fact a more appropriate figure. With the permission of the Chairman, Councillor Phillips addressed the meeting cautioning against reducing councillors too far in rural areas, citing the planned population growth in some villages, the difficult in finding candidates to stand for election, and that rural people already felt their concerns were neglected. The Democratic Services Manager responded that the proposed submission was based on electoral forecasts to 2023 which took into account projected population expansion in certain areas. One of the Boundary Commission’s obligations when making its recommendations was to deliver electoral equality for voters, and research in the submission demonstrated that should the Council size remain the same, then electoral variances would widen across the Borough by 2023. The review therefore provided the opportunity to provide a more equitable spread of councillors which would still reflect community interests and identities. The Democratic Services Manager further advised that 36 out of 50 councillors had completed the survey. The Chairman expressed her disappointment that 14 councillors had chosen not to provide evidence to this important review. Members supported the submission noting that it was for the LGBCE to make the final decision on Council size.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet authorises the Chief Executive to submit the proposal on Council size set out in Appendix 1 of this report to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).
To enable the Council to express its view on what the size of the Council should be as part of the preliminary stage of the LGBCE’s review of the Borough.