Agenda item

Electoral Review: Council Size

To consider and, if thought fit, to approve the recommendations set out in the associated report.

Minutes:

Councillor Barrington-King moved, and Councillor Holden seconded, the recommendations set out in the report on the agenda.

 

Debate on the motion included:

·         The recommendation from the General Purposes Committee for keeping the number of members at 48 followed several workshops and a public consultation.

·         The size of the Council should be based on the numbers needed for the council to function effectively.

·         The public consultation showed a majority favouring no reduction.

·         Partner organisations, including parish councils favoured the status quo.

·         The higher the ratio of representatives to electors the better.

·         Saving money or conforming to average ratios elsewhere were not sufficient reasons to change.

·         A reduction in numbers as a form of appeasing the Boundary Commissions in the hope of avoiding steeper cuts was not sufficient reason to change.

·         Workload of councillors had not reduced – contracted services still needed overseeing, ward work had not lessened and modern communication technology had increased the amount of contact with residents.

·         Retaining 48 members was justified.

 

Councillor Dawlings moved, and Councillor Pound seconded, an amendment that the Council’s submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission on Council Size be amended to recommend that the number of councillors be 39.

 

Debate on the amendment included:

·         The number of direct council functions had reduced significantly since the last review.

·         New communication methods had made it easier to engage with residents.

·         The loss of Revenue Support Grant and limited other sources of income put tight restrictions on the council’s resources.

·         Fewer meetings were being held and many meetings were now held online, reducing the time and travel required of councillors.

·         Considering the reduction in workload, maintaining the number of councillors was not justified.

·         39 members was justified and more likely to be accepted by the Boundary Commission.

·         The public consultation showed a majority in favour of keeping the same or increasing the number of members.

·         Councillor’s workload had not reduced.

·         Population was expected to grow by 30,000 over the next 20 years.

·         A reduction in members would reduce the talent pool and range of experience from which to draw committee and cabinet members.

·         The fewer members the larger and less representative the wards.

·         Fewer members would increase the workload and time commitment which could deter those with work or childcare responsibilities from standing for election.

·         Reducing opportunities for those with work or childcare responsibilities would disproportionately affect young people and women, two groups already under-represented on the Council.

·         The work of the General Purposes Committee had demonstrated that the number of members needed for the Council to function was closer to 48.

·         The submission to the Boundary Commission should be based on evidence.

·         The submission to the Boundary Commission should not be based on what the Council thinks the Commission wants to hear.

·         Significant changes would be coming as a result of the earlier decision to retain elections by-thirds. Ward boundaries would change in any case.

·         Continuing efficiencies and new technology would reduce the workload on councillors.

·         Much of the work of councillors was ‘behind the scenes’ and this was not always appreciated by residents. A reduction in councillors would reduce the influence of residents.

·         The average ratio quoted by the Boundary Commission was a useful guide. Tunbridge Wells was not so special that the ratio was not relevant.

·         The workload of Councillors was not equal and there was spare capacity.

·         The main barrier to people wanting to be councillors was the belief they would not be influential, fewer councillors would increase the influence of each councillor and encourage more people to come forward.

·         All wards would be three-member in future, ward work could be shared.

·         Tunbridge Wells was over-represented compared to other similar authorities.

 

The Mayor took a recorded vote on the amendment.

 

Members who voted for the amendment: Councillors Allen, Bland, Britcher-Allan, Dawlings, Everitt, Fairweather, Goodship, Hamilton, Hayward, D. Hill, Knight, Lewis, March, McDermott, Pound, Scott, Warne, Willis and Woodward. (19)

 

Members who voted against the amendment: Councillors Atkins, Backhouse, Bailey, Barrington-King, Chapelard, Fitzsimmons, C. Hall, Dr Hall, B. Hills, Holden, Lidstone, Ms Palmer, Patterson, Poile, Rands, Rutland, Scholes, Simmons, Thomson and Wormington. (20)

 

Members who abstained from voting: Councillors Atwood, Hickey and Pope. (3)

 

AMENDMENT NOT CARRIED

 

Debate returned to the original motion (keeping the number of members at 48):

·         No further comments.

 

The Mayor took a recorded vote on the motion.

 

Members who voted for the motion: Councillors Atkins, Atwood, Backhouse, Bailey, Barrington-King, Chapelard, Fairweather, Fitzsimmons, C. Hall, Dr Hall, B. Hills, Holden, Lewis, Lidstone, Ms Palmer, Patterson, Poile, Pope, Rands, Rutland, Scholes, Simmons, Thomson and Wormington. (24)

 

Members who voted against the motion: Councillors Allen, Bland, Dawlings, Everitt, Goodship, Hamilton, D. Hill, McDermott, Pound, Scott, Willis and Woodward. (12)

 

Members who abstained from voting: Councillors Britcher-Allan, Hayward, Hickey, Knight, March and Warne. (6)

 

RESOLVED –

1.    That the Council Size Submission (the Submission) at appendix A be approved and submitted to the Local Government Boundary Commission (the Commission) for England by 1 November 2021; and

2.    That authority be delegated to the Head of Policy and Governance in consultation with Group Leaders to make such amendments to the Submission as are necessary to give effect to the resolutions passed by Full Council prior to the Submission being submitted to the Commission.

Supporting documents: