Agenda and minutes

General Purposes Committee - Thursday, 22nd July, 2021 6.30 pm

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Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services Team 


No. Item


Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To receive any apologies for absence.

Additional documents:


There were no apologies received.


Declarations of Interest: pdf icon PDF 65 KB

To receive any declarations of interest by members in items on the agenda. For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Officer.


Additional documents:


There were no disclosable pecuniary or other significant interests declared at the meeting.


Notification of Visiting Members wishing to speak (in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 18): pdf icon PDF 29 KB

Members should indicate which item(s) they wish to speak on and the nature of their concern/question/request for clarification.


Additional documents:


Councillor Dr Hall had registered to speak on Agenda Items 5 and 6.


Minutes of the meeting of 27 April 2021 pdf icon PDF 146 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.  The only issue relating to the minutes that can be discussed is their accuracy.

Additional documents:


Members reviewed the minutes.  No amendments were proposed.


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting dated 27 April 2021 be approved as a correct record.


Whole Council Elections pdf icon PDF 228 KB

To consider the contents and proposals set out in the attached report.

Additional documents:


Jane Clark, Head of Policy and Governance introduced the report as set out in the Agenda.


Registered Speakers: Councillor Dr Hall.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       An earlier report by Mike McGeary (2011) would be circulated to Members after the meeting.

-       Appendix B provided details of the relative merits of each system, but if Members decided further information would be helpful to residents, this could be done.  But to note, the consultation was due to be published on Monday 26 July 2021.

-       It was suggested whole elections would be good for the stability of the Council and better provided for medium and long term financial planning.

-       It was further suggested that whole elections would make more sense to the electorate and that it would provide significant financial savings.

-       Central Government and two thirds of other Councils operated a whole election system, including Kent County Council.

-       The consultation sought to harvest views of the electorate that would better inform a decision by Members.

-       There was very little research on whole elections and as such the report did not show any clear evidence of any significant benefit. 

-       Residents would vote on the issues of the day and this would be true whether the Council adopted whole elections or elections by thirds.

-       There was a risk that if local elections took place at the same time as national elections, local elections would lose out.

-       There was a risk that whole elections would result in the loss of democratic engagement.

-       There was a further risk that all political parties (and not just smaller parties) may not be able to field candidates if there was a move to whole elections.   This could leave some seats uncontested.

-       Any change in system would require a two thirds majority.

-       The cost of the consultation would not be significant. It would feature on the TWBC website and in the four main local newspapers. 

-       Neither system would guarantee a stable Council.

-       A mixture of experience on the Council was very important.

-       One advantage of elections every 4 years (whole elections) was that it would give more time to find the talent.  Better candidates might improve voter turnout.

-       A recent article in the Times of Tunbridge Wells did not come from a press release issued by the Council or from the Cabinet.  It was likely that it was ‘picked up’ following the publication of the Agenda for this meeting and not from any official source. Once the consultation had been published, it was expected that TWBC would issue a press statement.

-       There was concern that the questions included in the consultation were not sufficiently prescriptive to give the electorate enough information to make an informed decision.

-       The two proposed consultations included in the Agenda would be published as one consultation for a period of 6 weeks.  The information would be amalgamated and would total 4 questions.

-       The Local  ...  view the full minutes text for item GP26/21


Electoral Review pdf icon PDF 252 KB

To consider the contents and proposals as set out in the attached report.

Additional documents:


Jane Clark, Head of Policy and Governance introduced the report as set out in the Agenda.


Registered Speakers: Councillor Dr Hall.


Discussion and questions from Members included the following:


-       To note, a revised table showing the electoral ratio was circulated at the meeting as there were technical issues with the original version published on the website.  In addition, the source information from the Boundary Commission was also circulated.

-       The number of Councillors listed were sample numbers, more numbers could be added as long as they were divisible by three.

-       To produce a range maps to show how the Wards would change if the number of Councillors changed was not possible. 

-       Because the process was complex the Boundary Commission required that the number of Councillors be established first before work commenced on Ward Boundaries. 

-       If the decision was to continue to elect by thirds, Ward patterns would change dramatically because there was a requirement for three Member Wards.

-       It was disappointing the Boundary Commission did not take into account population size.

-       The Borough could increase in size by one third, but with no additional representation.

-       It was suggested the consultation should include a number higher than the current number of 48.  It was also suggested that the consultation include a column that allowed respondents to ‘choose’ their own number.

-       It would also be important respondents knew what the current number of Councillors were. 

-       The number of Councillors wasn’t as important as ensuring that those Councillors were effective.

-       In terms of total number of Councillors, TWBC sat in the middle across the region. 

-       If the Council moved to three Members per Ward it would sit near the bottom of the list.

-       The more Councillors the better the ratio between Councillors and population.

-       The Boundary Commission did take into consideration population growth.

-       It was suggested that the question should be amended to better explain what was being sought by the Council.

-       An amendment was proposed by Cllr Rands, seconded by Cllr Holden and a vote was requested.  The wording to be amended as follows:


“Would you like to have:

-       Fewer Councillors (this will save money, but Councillors will represent more people);

-       48 Councillors (this is the same as we currently have);

-       More Councillors (this may cost more money, but Councillors will represent a smaller group of people and would take into account of a growing population).”


-       A vote was taken:

o   5 for

o   1 against

o   2 abstain


-The Amendment was passed.


RESOLVED – The recommendations set out in the report were supported including the amendment to the question.



Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To consider any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent, for reasons to be stated, in accordance with Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Additional documents:


There was no urgent business.


Date of Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 19 October 2021 at 6:30pm.

Additional documents:


Two further meetings would need to be scheduled, dates agreed as follows:


Thursday 19 August 2021 at 6:30pm

Tuesday 21 September 2021 at 6:30pm