Reduction in the number of District Councillors

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Wealden District Council discusses cutting the number of Councillors.  The Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed the number of Councillors should be reduced from 55 to somewhere in the range of 40 to 45.

Wealden District Council - Full Council Meeting
Wealden District Council – Full Council Meeting

A vote to reduce the number of Councillors by between 15 and 20 was defeated.

All current Councillors were asked to complete a survey asking them about the about the amount of time they spend on Council business, and giving them opportunity to express their views on what size the Council should be in the future.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered an analysis of the survey and a summary of the discussions at a recent seminar.   65% of Councillors that responded to the survey said they spend between 1 and 3 hours per week on average at Council meetings and 43% spend between 1 and 3 hours a week attending non-formal Council meetings.  Dealing with constituents takes on average between 3 and 5 hours a week and community obligations approximately 1 to 3 hours per week.

Outsourcing of Council Services

Most Councillors felt their role had changed since they had first become elected, mainly because there are fewer meetings to attend and also because of outsourcing of services.  When asked to select the statement that best described the role the Council will have in the future, 57% felt that it would have an increased “enabling” role with fewer directly employed council staff, more contracted-out services and more services shared with neighbouring authorities.  In April 2013 Wealden awarded a joint waste and recycling contract with Rother, Hastings and Eastbourne Councils.  Environmental Health is a shared service between Wealden and Rother.  Building Control (which checks plans and applications for building works and things like dangerous structure) is a partnership between Wealden and Eastbourne Councils.

Technology

The report also said the role of the Councillor had changed, as there was more interaction via email and less face-to-face contact with residents.  This was seen as a major efficiency driver in the way Councillors dealt with resident enquiries, as well as being significant in diverting many enquiries away from Councillors as residents either contact the Council directly (be that through social media, email or the Contact Centre) or simply find the information themselves through the website.

Elections

On 7th May, eight Councillors will be elected onto Wealden District Council to represent Crowborough.   Click on the following link to see the names of the candidates standing to represent your views over the next four years: You Decide 7th May.

The Council’s Cabinet will now submit a proposal to the Full Council and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to reduce the number of Councillors for Wealden District Council after the next scheduled election in 2019.

Your Views

What do you think?  Do you agree their should be fewer Councillors?  At present there are three tiers of local authority – Crowborough Town Council, Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council?  Do you know what services each Council is responsible for delivering?  (See handy guide here: Who’s Responsible.)   Do you think there should their be a unitary authority like Brighton & Hove and Medway.  Add your comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

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