Council's Electoral Review Panel responds to proposal on council size

Members of Cornwall Council’s Electoral Review Panel have met for the first time following the election of the new Council in May to elect a new Chairman and Vice Chairman and to consider the proposal from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England on the future size of the authority.

Earlier this week the Boundary Commission wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive proposing that the authority should have 87 councillors in the future.  This is subject to a further period of consultation being staged by the Commission over the next eight weeks.  They will then confirm the Council size in September.  The new figure will come into effect in 2021.

Malcolm Brown, the Member for the St Austell Bethel electoral division, was elected as the Chairman of the Panel, with Dick Cole, the Member for the St Enoder electoral division, elected as the Vice Chairman.

How many should sit here in the Cornwall Council Chamber?

Thanking the previous chairman of the Electoral Review Panel John Wood for his excellent work over the past twelve months, Malcolm Brown said that the decision of the Boundary Commission to stage a further eight week period of consultation on its proposal for 87 councillors, rather than announcing its final decision on the size of the Council as had been expected, meant a considerable amount of work for both the Panel and the Council over a very short period of time.

“As well as developing our response to this unexpected additional period of consultation on the proposed figure of 87 councillors, we also need to start work on the next stage of the electoral review process which means drawing up proposals for division patterns” said Malcolm Brown.

“This is an incredibly complex piece of work which involves producing a series of maps showing options for how divisional boundaries could be drawn.  These need to take into account a number of different criteria, including the current boundaries of Community Network Areas, parish and town council boundaries and physical features.” 

The former Council had proposed a figure of 99 councillors following careful consideration of the findings of the cross party Electoral Review Panel which was set up to lead this work.  This figure was based on a wide range of evidence, including electoral forecasts, the geography and size of Cornwall, the Council’s decision-making and scrutiny arrangements, and the role and workload of Cornwall Councillors, together with evidence presented by town and parish councils and partner organisations.

A number of Members expressed disappointment at the smaller figure which has been proposed by the Boundary Commission, and it was agreed that work would be carried out on mapping the divisional boundaries for the previous Council submission of 99 councillors as well as looking at the implications of the figure of 87.

Work will now take place on preparing preliminary division patterns using the criteria below to help inform the debate about the Council size:

  • Single Member divisions
  • Maintaining existing Community Network Area boundaries
  • Maintaining traditional parish boundaries
  • Rural / urban split

Members agreed to stage a workshop session on 4 July to consider the results of the preliminary divisional mapping ahead of a formal meeting of the Panel on 11 July.  The feedback from this meeting will then be used to inform a recommended response to be presented to the meeting of the full Council on 25 July.

The Panel also stressed the importance of seeking the views of town and parish councils and it was agreed to hold discussions with the Cornwall Association of Local Councils (CALC) and to provide them with projected electorate numbers for individual polling districts to help illustrate the impact of the different proposals on specific areas.