A third of councillors could go after key vote is agreed - but Boundary Commission will have final say

16:01 19 April 2014

Cllr James Palmer, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Cllr James Palmer, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Archant

A radical reform of East Cambridgeshire District Council – with the number of councillors cut by 12 to 27 – has been backed by members.

It is hoped that the move will save up to £50,000 a year in allowances and expenses – though it will not be introduced until May 2019.

A special meeting of the council was held last Tuesday where the outcome of recent reviews into councillor numbers was discussed.

As part of the changes, double-member wards could be chopped with the exception of Ely, Littleport and Soham.

But, despite the backing of the council’s 39 elected members, the proposal will still need the backing of the boundary commission, which will examine the council’s proposal before making a final ruling, expected in late 2015 or 2016.

Chief executive John Hill told the meeting that “one of the drivers for change is value for money, i.e. reducing the cost of democracy in the light of the budget challenges ahead”. The council is faced with finding savings of £3.5million by 2018.

At present 39 councillors cover an electorate of 65,520, representing an average ratio of 1,680 electors per member. But Mr Hill says there is considerable variance between wards.

In Soham North, for example, the member represents 2,145 people whilst in Littleport West the councillor represents 1,335.

Neighbouring Huntingdonshire has an average electorate per member of 2,514.

A previous attempt by the council to trigger a review was rejected by the commission in 2011. The council wanted a reduction of six councillors to 33, but the commission “did not agree” with the proposal and didn’t launch a review.

All councils can request a review under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

The commission is obliged to consider the request but is not compelled to agree to conduct a review if it feels the request doesn’t meet the best interests of voters.

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