Thu, 31 Aug 2017
THE district of West Berkshire is set to undergo a huge shake-up with proposals put forward to significantly reduce the number of wards and councillors.
The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England is asking people across West Berkshire to comment on its draft proposals for new council ward boundaries in a 10-week public consultation.
The changes, which, if approved, will come into effect at the local council elections in 2019, would see 43 councillors represent residents across a total of 20 wards.
Currently, the district has 52 councillors representing 30 wards.
Under the commission’s proposals, there will be seven three-councillor wards, nine two-councillor wards and four one-councillor wards across the West Berkshire area.
The shake-up would involve merging a number of existing smaller areas to create significantly larger wards, such as Newbury and Speen, Hungerford and Kintbury, Chieveley and Cold Ash, and Aldermaston and Bucklebury.
Ward boundaries in Newbury would also undergo a major overhaul, with existing wards such as Falkland, St John’s, Northcroft and Victoria replaced with a Newbury Central ward and a Wash Common ward.
The electoral review was undertaken at the request of West Berkshire Council in an effort to shave around £70,000 off its annual spending.
In the review, the commission will try to ensure that each councillor represents approximately the same number of voters.
Leader of West Berkshire Council Graham Jones raised a number of questions over the proposals, but said the council would be considering them in more detail later this week.
He said: “My initial thoughts are as an authority generally, we don’t like the idea of three-member wards.
“We feel it puts more distance between the councillors and the community, particularly when you look at the bigger three-member wards – Hungerford and Kintbury, to use as an example. It’s a very big area.
“So that is a concern and it’s something we need to look at and form a view.
“Another thing is the Greenham ward, which takes in all of Greenham and a bit of Newbury town centre – it’s an odd mix.”
The proposals would mean that by 2020 there will be an average of 3,028 electors per councillor.
Chairman of the commission, professor Colin Mellors, said: “We are publishing proposals for a new pattern of wards across West Berkshire and we are keen to hear what local people think of the recommendations.
“Over the next 10 weeks, we are asking local people to tell us if they agree with the proposals or if not, how they can be improved. Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters.
“This means that each councillor represents a similar number of people so that everyone’s vote in council elections is worth roughly the same, regardless of where you live.
“We also want to ensure that our proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities across West Berkshire and that the pattern of wards can help the council deliver effective local government to local people.
“We will consider all the submissions we receive, whoever they are from, and whether your evidence applies to the whole council area or just part of it.”
Written submissions should be sent to the commission before November 6, to The Review Officer (West Berkshire), Local Government Boundary Commission for England, 14th floor, Millbank Tower, London, SW1P 4QP.