Councillors decide against cutting numbers

David Oliver

David Oliver

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District councillors have thrown out the idea of cutting their numbers.

East Northamptonshire Council’s policy and resources committee was asked to consider plans to reduce the number of councillors from 40 to 31 after being contacted by the Boundary Commission.

The move would have seen the amount of ward councillors in Rushden reduce from 13 to 10.

Other wards would have each lost one member.

The number of councillors has remained unchanged since 2006, when it increased from 36 to 40.

However, staff levels have decreased by 15 per cent, from 204 full-time employees in July 2009 to 174 in December 2012.

The process for implementing proposals to reduce the number of councillors had previously been a long one, but MP Brandon Lewis, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, has now agreed a revised approach with the Boundary Commission.

The committee voted against any decrease at a meeting on Monday, March 11.

Council chief executive David Oliver told committee members they had to decide whether or not to consider the boundary review.

He said: “There is a number of councils around the county going through boundary reviews.”

Council leader Cllr Steven North said: “Someone is very keen on these reviews as I am written to very often by Brandon Lewis, suggesting that we have a review.”

Northamptonshire County Council has recently seen its recommendation for a reduction in the number of councillors from 73 to 57 accepted by the Commission and the new structures will come into force at the May 2013 election.

Cllr Andrew Mercer said: “The Northamptonshire County Council plan is already causing problems.

“Having 10,000 electorates per councillor is ludicrous, it’s becoming unworkable.”

Cllr Richard Lewis also raised some concerns about the proposals to change the county council ward borders for Rushden and Higham Ferrers.

East Northamptonshire Council is scheduled to begin a review of parish arrangements in the district, which includes reviewing the boundaries and number of councillors on parish and town councils, after the county council election in May.

This is following a request from two parish councils, and also because the parish arrangements have not been reviewed since 1998.