The Labour group say the proposals are biased. The LibDems said the proposals are undemocratic.
The truth is that the proposals are now best described as “not applicable”.
The changes proposed by Canterbury City Council, and accepted by the LGBCE, were explicitly based on the assumption that the Council would be operating under a “leader-and-cabinet” system.
It looks increasingly likely that the Council will move to a committee based system of governance. So is it a time for a rethink on boundaries, wards and councillor numbers?
from Canterbury Times 13th May 2014
The Canterbury Labour group have decried proposed changes to ward boundaries in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay as ‘undemocratic, unrepresentative and incompetent into the bargain’.
In a statement, Hugh Lanning, the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Canterbury and Whitstable, branded the exercise as ‘a sham and an abuse of process’. He accused the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE), who set up the proposed changes, of ‘shameful’ political bias towards the Conservative majority on the Canterbury City Council.
The proposed changes were identical or very similar to those made by the Canterbury City Council majority across most of the wards. Julia Seath, the District Party Chair for Labour said:
“The LGBCE is creating a situation in which significant minority views of many voters – not just Labour, but UKIP, Green and Liberal Democrat too – are squeezed out.”
Labour were particularly critical of some of the proposed rural wards, which they say breaks up communities, and are too large for councillors to represent effectively. For example, the proposed ‘Barham, Bridge and Littlebourne Ward’, which would combine three existing wards. A lot of the proposed changes come from the suggestion to reduce the number of city councillors at the CCC from 50 to 39.
The new criticism echoes statements made by councillor Alex Perkins when the changes were proposed in March. Councillor Perkins, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition on the council, said the proposals would ‘reduce democratic accountability’, and accused council leader John Gilbey of pushing through changes that would be unfair on minority views. Councillor Gilbey has since refuted these claims as ‘absurd’:
“It’s a ridiculous claim. If the changes really were undemocratic, then the Boundary Commission simply would not make them. It is an independent group.”
The LGBCE’s Electoral Review Guide states: “We are sensitive to the fact that political groups may seek to obtain an electoral advantage in contributing to a review. Our task is to ensure that our recommendations are based on evidence, and that the representations of all those participating in a review are treated equally and without bias.”
Speaking to the Times, LGBCE communications manager Marcus Bowell said they could not comment on any specific criticisms or suggestions until the consultation period was over, and the results were published on August 12.
“One thing I will say is, it is very rare for consultations to pass through with absolutely no changes to them.”
The open consultation is available online for anyone to have their say and make proposed changes, until May 20th. To see the proposals and make a response, click HERE.