East Cambs to debate proposal to reduce number of councillors by 12 and so save up to £50,000 a year

PUBLISHED: 08:36 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:36 10 April 2014

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A radical reform of East Cambridgeshire District Council - with the number of councillors reduced by 12 to 27 - could save up to £50,000 a year.

A special meeting of the council has been called for next Tuesday to consider the outcome of recent reviews which could see the changes emerge in coming years.

Out could go double member wards with the exception of Ely, Littleport and Soham providing the boundary commission accepts the proposals.

Chief executive John Hill says 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 instance the member represents 2,145 people whilst in Littleport West the councillor represents just 1,335.

Neighbouring Huntingdonshire has an average electorate per member of 2,514 whilst in Forest Heath it is just 1,471.

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 which looks at increasing or reducing the number of elected members 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 with the best interests of voters.

If it does go ahead with a review in East Cambs, the commission’s work is expected to take place in 2015/16 after the next round of elections.

The district council would be able to call fresh elections ahead of the scheduled 2019 date, however, if it wanted to realise the savings sooner.

The council said that concerns had already been raised about the reduction by some councillors in rural wards.

Mr Hill said: “A number of members representing rural wards are concerned that any reduction in the number of members with the current distribution of seats per ward would significantly increase the size of their wards and the number of parish councils.”

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