Tuesday, 25 September 2012

NWLDC should u-turn on boundary review urgently

Back in the dying days of the last administration, just two months before the May 2011 elections, the Tories at Whitwick Road (who then had an overwhelming majority) decided to pass a motion at council calling for the Local Government Boundary Commission to reorganise North West Leicestershire District Council into 'Single Member Wards'.

The Local Government Boundary Commission were not being asked to visit our corner of Leicestershire because there was a need for them to. In fact on the contrary according to the statutory criteria used by the commission there was no need to come to North West Leicestershire and realistically no prospect of such a need for several years more.

No, the reason the commission were requested to visit was based on a personal preference of the current Conservative leadership. A leadership that believes councillors will be shamed into working harder for their constituents if they are solely accountable to voters.

Whilst I do not disagree in principle with Single Member Wards I do believe the assessment of the Tory leadership is fundamentally wrong.

I believe, irrespective of political party, most councillors work hard for the people resident in their ward.

I believe that where there are currently two or more members in existing wards this is because those members represent larger, easily identifiable communities. We should never simply split a community because it is more expedient or fits an unneeded 'model'. Communities and village life are far too important for that

I believe that if a councillor doesn't pull their weight being elected in a Single Member Ward isn't any more likely to make them accountable but rather more likely to make their village or community effectively unrepresented.

I believe that this exercise to redraw boundary lines is superfluous and cowtowing to personal whim. I also believe that this is an exercise which is a colossal waste of money.

Various Local Government Boundary Commission sources have placed a cost to the taxpayer for this exercise in a range between £100,000 and £200,000.

That represents a huge amount for an exercise for which there is no legal need, and a huge amount for an exercise which even with significant cuts to council size will arguably not achieve payback within a period of 10 years, and that doesn't even start to look at how representation of local people will be affected.

I strongly believe, as did the previous Labour group at North West Leicestershire, that the process of local boundary review should be stopped until there is a statutory need to undertake it and even when there is such a need we shouldn't be looking automatically at single member wards which may well worsen representation and artificially split communities.

As the highly respected and two-time former Chair of the Council, Councillor Nigel Smith said at last weeks Council meeting 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Nigel is right, our system isn't broken and there is no need for to implement an expensive and unneeded reorganisation based on a whim.

As a Council we should be going back to the Local Government Boundary Commission and asking them to suspend this exercise.

4 comments:

  1. Agree with what you say but think you have missed a good point which could help the argument to stay as it is. Where i think there is merit in a reduction in the number of councillors as this will save money but not having lots of little 1 member wards is poor when a cllr passes away steps down etc there would then be no representation for electors until a lengthy election process which could mean 2 months plus without a cllr. The cost also can not be justified in the current climate i personally would struggle with any project idea i put forward at work if it doesnt pay back with in 2 years 3 at an absolute maximum. Yet more tory waste. Wayne McD

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    1. You make a fair point Wayne, one which I confess I had not thought of.

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  2. If NWLDC was reduce Councillors by say 10% there would be a grand 'saving' of 36,620.00 per year. The current Backbench Councillor Allowance at NWLDC is £3662.04. The Tory Cabinet and the Tory Chairs of Committee's get a 'Special Responsibility Allowance' (SRA)- with the Tory Leader Blunt gaining an extra £14648.30pa. There would be no need to reduce the number of Councillors at NWLDC if the SRA was removed or reduced.

    I personally accept the argument of possible long Councillor vacancies in the event of death or resignation (or indeed long term illness).

    There is a faction within the NWLDC Tories who are hell bent on dubbing down the Council to a cost free ceremonial body. Bearing in mind that the Tories have removed all form of formalised scrutiny and accountability - the Tories have made local democracy a joke.

    All scrutiny and accountability has to be undertaken by Councillors at home 'in their own time' for a basic allowance of £3,600pa + internet and telephone.

    Now the Tories have the audacity to say that backbench Councillors do nowt (including their own side)

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    1. John, you are actually doing your argument a dis-service.

      10% of Councillors is 4 councillors which equates in the region of £14,400 a year not £36,600.

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