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Changes to local government elections backed by Winchester councillors
WINCHESTER councillors have backed changes to local government elections over the coming years.
Councillors recommended changing the electoral cycle to all-out city elections every four years, rather than the current system of having elections three out of four years.
They also supported proposals to reduce the number of councillors from 57 to around 40. It comes as the Boundary Commission is considering reducing numbers by 2016.
An independent scrutiny group (ISG) chaired by Conservative Cllr Robert Sanders suggested the plans at a scrutiny meeting on Monday (Sept 23), which could save the council £328,000 per year.
He said: “A peer review shows that Winchester has one of the lowest residents per councillor ratios, with each having around 1,600 electorate. On the Isle of Wight it’s around 2,000 per councillor and in Portsmouth it’s 3,500.
“Clearly there are grounds for increasing the number of electorate per councillor and we are not alone in considering this action.”
Cllr Sanders, a Conservative, added it was not a political move but a practical one.
He said: “For me good policy is good politics and I don’t care if we lose seats as a party along the way.”
Fellow councillors were broadly supportive of both proposals, claiming most wards did not need three members as it caused confusion.
Cllr Simon Cook said: “I would be delighted if there was one election every four years as it would save me going out canvassing every year. And as far as the chop down to 40 councillors goes, in my area of Alresford you could do that quite happily.”
Cllr Martin Tod added: “Three member wards seem like a very odd way of organising it and I would hope we could ignore the Boundary Commission if necessary and decide it our way.”
But Cllr Jamie Scott said the council should consider the increase in residents over the next decades before making a decision.
He said: “It’s a big drop from 57 to 40. Winchester is going through a severe housing development and our wards will increase with all this development over the next five to 10 years.”
Scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Chris Pines warned the process would not be simple and that councillors’ workloads varied across the district He said: “I remember when we last tried to do this and it was a blood bath. The kind of problems you have in one part of the district are very different from another part. It can be huge by comparison and is virtually a full-time job for some of us.”
The ISG also recommended changes to the pest control service including raising charges and reducing staff to make it more cost effective.
The measures will go before Cabinet for approval.
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