Thu, 24 Nov 2016
THE number of West Berkshire councillors is set to be reduced by 20 per cent in what is the biggest shake-up of the local authority in 15 years.
West Berkshire Council is currently made up of 52 councillors representing 30 wards, 48 of whom are Conservatives and four Liberal Democrats.
However, following an electoral review, requested by the council and undertaken by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, it was recommended that the number of councillors was cut to 40.
At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, it was decided that the final number should be 42, a move which is expected to save the cash-strapped council around £70,000 a year.
At the start of the meeting, deputy leader Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn Valley) urged his fellow councillors to “do not what is right for ourselves, but for the people of West Berkshire”.
And they did just that – voting unanimously in favour of reducing the number of councillors by 10.
The proposed changes will now go out to a public consultation and, if approved, will come into effect for the next local elections in May 2019.
Mr Jones said: “The implications for many of us sitting in this chamber is clear, but we need to do not what is right for ourselves, but what is right for the residents of West Berkshire.
“We have a proposal here which will create a much smaller council for West Berkshire, but will also yield significant savings which are vital in these times of austerity.
“It is a great opportunity to examine our processes and see how many of us need to be here to deliver a good service for West Berkshire.”
Mr Jones said that other authorities operate on fewer councillors than West Berkshire, citing Bracknell Forest, which has 42, as an example.
Portsmouth City Council, which is a unitary authority like West Berkshire, has an average of 3,502 electors per councillor.
By contrast, West Berkshire has an average of 2,208 electors per councillor.
Before the 2015 local elections, the Conservative Party made a pledge to request the review in order to address the district’s growing population over the next 10 years.
The purpose of the exercise is to look at whether the number of electors represented by each councillor is approximately the same.
The Liberal Democrats had proposed an amendment that the number of councillors was reduced to 44, rather than 42.