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Councillors at war over plan for boundaries

Changing role of city authority

THE ward boundaries of Canterbury district could change forever. Draft proposals, put forward by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) after a request from Canterbury City Council, would resize wards of Canterbury, Herne Bay, and Whitstable, expanding some, reducing others, and cutting the number of city councillors from 50 to 39. Speaking to the Times, council leader John Gilbey said the decision to call in the LGBCE was made “because of the changing role of the city councillor.

“In the old days, everything had to be face to face. But now, councillors do most of their work over the phone, or by email, and both councillors and residents have seen the benefits of that. Because of that, we are finding we can do more with fewer councillors, which will save a lot of money.”

The chair of the commission, Max Baller, said the aim of the proposal was 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.”

Representation

The proposed boundaries would allow wards with up to roughly 3,000 people on the electoral roll one councillor and two for those between 3,000 and 6,000. Wards with significantly more than this, such as Blean Forest and Barton, would be represented by three councillors. Marcus Bowell, from the LGBCE, said the decision to reduce the number of councillors was taken after considering all the available facts during a survey. But he said nothing is set in stone, adding:

“We have opened this draft up entirely to the public.”

The proposals have already been criticised by the Lib Dems. Alex Perkins, Lib Dem leader, blamed John Gilbey personally for “forcing through a change which will reduce democratic accountability”. He said:

“When you look at some of these new wards being proposed, they just aren’t cohesive communities anymore.”

Mr Gilbey refuted the claim the changes would reduce democracy, saying

“It’s a ridiculous claim. If the changes really were undemocratic, then the Boundary Commission simply would not make them.”

Any successfully proposed changes would be implemented during the local elections in May next year.

Herne Bay Times, March 27th 2014

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