The Boundary Commission has confirmed Cornwall will have only 87 Councillors from 2021 – despite all the “consultations”.
In a statement late yesterday, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) confirmed “The Commission has also announced that it is minded to recommend that, from 2021, the council should have 87 councillors: 36 fewer than the current arrangements”.
They’ll now launch another round of “consultations” – and then presumably take as much notice of our views as this last round – and then just tell us where the new ward boundaries will go.
The council and the LGBCE have been wrangling over the numbers for more than a year. The majority of Councillors and the majority of representations to the commission wanted to keep the number at 123, or at the very least 99. But the majority voice has been ignored. The Conservative group on the council were the only ones recommending a cut.
Members of Cornwall Council initially suggested that the future size of the unitary authority should be in the range of 105 and 115 members, but this was ruled as unacceptable by the Boundary Commission. The Council’s subsequent detailed proposal for 99 councillors was also not supported by the LGBCE, which instead proposed a cut in elected members to only 87.
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The change will be implemented at the next set of elections due to take place in 2021.
Cllr Malcolm Brown, the Chairman of the Council’s Electoral Review Panel said: “The number of councillors that should be on Cornwall Council from 2021 has been highly controversial ever since the Boundary Commission started its review last year.
“The majority of Cornwall Councillors, both before and after this year’s elections, strongly favoured a council size of 99 or more. The vast majority of Parish and Town Councils also want Cornwall Council to have 99 councillors or more. It’s disappointing the Boundary Commission has ignored their views. This is a very sad day for the representation of local people in Cornwall.”
Gemma Massey Lib Dem Councillor for Launceston Central commented “To say I am truly disappointed and frustrated with this decision is an understatement. They claim to be forward thinking, however this to me feels very inward looking, based on cuts and will withdraw the council even more”
She continued “It is obvious with the proposed reduction in Councillors it’s a wider area to cover and more residents, the work load for each member with automatically increase for each councillor, fine if it is treated as a full time job.
Residents want value for money when it comes to the council and I, myself, have already expressed ways I feel we can be more efficient and how I am trying to help with these improvements; However they also want a councillor they can contact, someone who can work for the good of the local area and its wide ranging demographic of residents, not just for county hall”
Reaction from the Conservative Group Leader Phil Seeva this morning:
Speaking on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, Party Leader Cllr Dick Cole described himself as “extremely disturbed” by the attitude of the LGBCE and their determination to launch an “assault on democracy in Cornwall.”
He said: “Prior to 2009, Cornwall had 331 councillors on the County Council and the six district councils. The centralisation of local government was then imposed on Cornwall and the number of councillors slashed to 123. And now the LGBCE has imposed another large cut in elected members, which will further increase the democratic deficit from which Cornwall already suffers.
“This is so wrong and I cannot understand why the LGBCE is so determined to launch an assault on democracy in Cornwall.”
Cllr Cole has drawn attention to how the LGBCE did not seek a similar reduction in the number of councillors when it carried out an electoral review of the unitary authority in County Durham, which was also created in 2009.
“Durham County Council was founded with 126 councillors and a subsequent review allowed the council to continue with the same number of members. So how is it appropriate that Cornwall will have to suffer a 30% reduction in the number of its elected members?” he said.
Mebyon Kernow and many other bodies have argued that Cornwall already had fewer councillors on principal authorities than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom – but these representations have been ignored by the LGBCE.
Cllr Cole added: “Wales has more than 1,200 councillors on its 22 unitary authorities, while Devon has just under 500 principal authority councillors and Somerset has over 400.
“And yet the LGBCE expects Cornwall to get by with only 87, which – in terms of representatives per head of population – means that many other areas will have more than twice the number of councillors as Cornwall.”
Following the announcement, the Boundary Commission is now asking local people for their help to draw up a new pattern of council divisions for Cornwall Council.
In drawing up new boundaries, the Commission aims to deliver electoral equality for voters in council elections so that each councillor represents roughly the same number of voters. The review also “aims to ensure that the new council divisions reflect the interests and identities of communities across Cornwall”.
Professor Colin Mellors OBE, Chair of the Commission, said: “Our judgment is that 87 councillors is the right number to provide effective local government for Cornwall.
“We looked at how the council is changing, the challenges it faces and its ambitions for the future. We see a clear model for Cornwall to be a council with fewer councillors focussing on key strategic issues with parish and town councils taking more responsibility for local issues.
“We also think that 87 councillors make for a good basis to draw up new division boundaries that respect community ties and make sense to local people.”
You won’t be blamed for reading the next bit of his statement with some scepticism:
“Your views will make a difference.
“We will carefully consider all evidence that is provided during this phase of the review whoever it is from and whether it applies to the whole of Cornwall or just a small part of the county”
The next act of the charade continues until 19 February 2018. Further information on the review and interactive maps of the existing divisions can be found at consultation.lgbce.org.uk and www.lgbce.org.uk.
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