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Labour group warns against reducing size of Lichfield District Council

Labour councillors have warned against slashing the size of Lichfield District Council.

Lichfield’s Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association are among those calling for a reduction in the number of representatives.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) are due to close their consultation on the issue on October 14.

Lichfield District Council’s ruling Conservative party have already said the current number of 56 councillors is enough – a view that has now been backed by the opposition Labour group.

In their submission to the consultation, Labour politicians said: “We cannot see any reason to tinker with the existing arrangements.

“The Local Development Plan, which is in the final stages but generally accepted, allows for development across the District of just under 10,000 houses in the next plan period. This will put even more pressure on councillors’ time for resolving local problems.

“Apart from time spent at the many committee meetings of the District and outside bodies – of which there are many – a councillor in most parts of Lichfield District has much casework to concentrate on.

“The current exercise being carried out as part of the Government austerity measures is having a huge impact on the level of staff working for the District Council. This is bound to reflect in a councillor’s case work and the time it takes to satisfy the electorate when they raise problems with their local councillors.”

However, the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association have suggested that the role of local councillors is actually reducing in the digital age.

And they highlighted concerns over the structure of the decision-making process with calls for more training for a reduced number of representatives.

Cllr Steve Norman

Cllr Steve Norman

Cllr Steve Norman, leader of Lichfield District Council’s opposition Labour group, welcomed the submission by the group, but insisted the solution was not necessarily to slash the number of councillors.

“I was impressed with the detail and work involved in the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association submission,” he said. “I hope other groups and individuals have also made submissions.

“The alternative to a democratic process – and the necessary costs involved – of course is no democracy where the Council becomes a business and not a public body run by members of the public who each face a job interview by thousands of residents every four years.

“As for Scrutiny, I have long battled at Lichfield District Council to get the appropriate funding for the support of Scrutiny which may well have made savings greater than the cost of the professional support we currently do not have. In any case, at the very least, more quality training for members is needed and yes, Chairs who do not sit quietly when a petition of over 1,500 is presented to Council and halts the planned process.

“I am sympathetic to Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association’s concerns on these matters, but I think the answer may not lie in reducing the pool of elected members to choose from to sit on these important Scrutiny Committees, but to give them training and encouragement to challenge.

“There are still major funding challenges ahead which will mean even tougher decisions and which will need important input not just from councillors but from the communities and community organisations like BSARA to help survive the bleakest period in my 30 years experience in local government.”

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11 Comments

  1. Cynic

    11th October, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Is anyone surprised that councilers do not want to be removed – do turkeys vote for Christmas?
    How about sacking all those that can not think for themselves?
    You know the ones – someone at the top shouts jump and they ask how high!
    We need people that will act for us – not just follow the leader party line.

  2. Rob

    11th October, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Perhaps this flag-bearer for democracy could ballot residents on whether they want less councillors, or daren’t he run the risk of them coming up with the “wrong” answer?

  3. johnthemon

    11th October, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    “Is anyone surprised that councilers do not want to be removed – do turkeys vote for Christmas?”

    No, but they both need stuffing when the time is right lol.

  4. BSARA

    13th October, 2013 at 10:07 am

    The response so far from Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association(BSARA) members and the public has been overwhelmingly in favour of a reduction in the number of Councillors. On 10/Oct/2013 the AGM of the Borrowcop & District Residents’ Association (BADRA) also voted to reduce the number of Councillors from 56 to 40.

    Opinions seem to be polarising between Council Tax payers who contribute to the Council’s coffers and Councillors who receive money from it. The Council’s own analysis says the total cost of our Councillors and their committees is £850,000 a year!

    So the challenge to Councillors is to convince a sceptical public that they have not put their collective financial interests ahead of the interest of the community.

    BSARA’s submission to the Boundary Commission is available here (See 10/Oct/2013 Announcement http://www.beaconstreetara.org/announcements ). We encourage Councillors to also put their submissions on the web.

  5. BrownhillsBob

    13th October, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Interesting to see a residents group take such a blatantly political line.

    Tell me, how do you reduce the number of councillors without potentially adversely affecting one party or the other?

    Of course, this is just a tiny distraction from huge cuts in social care etc. that removing a few snout-troughers won’t go any way to ameliorate. But it does make the Beacon Street Massive look like Kath Kitson Punks. Oh yeah.

    Sheena was a chintz rocker.

    Bob

  6. BrownhillsBob

    13th October, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I’d like to point out I’m not particularly bothered how many councillors there are, and Lichfield could probably stand a reduction.

    After all, by the time you discount the asleep, the mad and the ones there for business benefit and self promotion, there aren’t many left, really.

    Reducing them without being seen to be gerrymandering will be a hard call.

    Bob

  7. Cynic

    13th October, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    “distraction from huge cuts in social care etc. that removing a few xxxxxxxxx won’t go any way to ameliorate”
    And that attitude is exactly why we are in the pickle we are today.
    Example – A housekeeper looks at a tin of beans which last week cost thirty pence – today it costs fifty pence – a GOOD housekeeper says i am not paying that because they realise it is not the increase of twenty pence BUT instead of £60 it is £100 .Some one once said “Look after the penies and the pounds will look after themself .
    Too many of our “HOUSKEEPERS” think its only a few hundred thousand here and there but it mounts up and the money tree is dieing .
    With regards to gerrymandering – you may have noticed the number of people that actualy bother to vote has fallen – i think the recent count was circa three in ten voted.
    Then devide that by the total candidates and you can see how they managed to get a tiny number of people to back them!!!

  8. BrownhillsBob

    13th October, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    In strolls the shaggy dog to give the punchline a poke.

    Good to see you making goodwill efforts to reduce the capital ‘E’ expenditure, but blow it with the Bowdlerised ‘x’ budget.

    I think you’ll find with most of us, the main question is ‘Beans: am I hungry, and if so, will I be wanting to share a bed tonight?’

    Bob

  9. Cllr Steve Norman

    13th October, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Readers will note that BSARA state they only speak for their small area (though they seem well researched) and have limited their comments on councillor activity to (Conservative as it happens) Lichfield City Councillors in their submission. In fact all Labour District Councillors hold surgeries once a month – and some twice a month. In Burntwood, we have also held and are proposing more “Down Your Way” mobile surgeries where we leaflet drop a few streets and knock on the doors of those residents who wish to speak to us.

    There is a Burntwood Labour Councillors’ website and a few of us do Tweet or use Facebook. We are in the process of delivering a newsletter, with contact details of the local members, to all Labour Wards in Burntwood and beyond. We have held special surgeries to consider particular issues and many of us issue press releases and write letters or comments to the news media on a regular basis (like this).

    Of course you can argue about whether it should be 20 or 60 or 40 and of course you could reduce the costs of the democratic process (and safeguards) if you let unelected officers make most of the decisions on planning, say or parks. Personally, much as I admire them, I don’t want to live in that state and if anyone wants to know what might have happened in the District in recent years if we had not been there – please email me direct.

  10. BSARA

    29th October, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Councillors for Lichfield District may be in for a bit of a shock. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has recommended that Stratford-on-Avon cut its number of Councillors from 53 to 36. The LGBCE say that having taken into account “political management, committee structures & workload” it felt that once Councillor for 2,500+ electors was appropriate. In contrast Lichfield the average Lichfield District Councillor has 1,441 electors to represent.

    Full details here: http://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/west-midlands/warwickshire/stratford-on-avon-fer

  11. Cllr Steve Norman

    29th October, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    It would be a shock as the District Council has proposed no change to the number of elected representatives to the Boundary Commission – just as it would have been a shock to Stratford on Avon District Council if the Boundary Commission had propsed that they keep their number at 53.

    In December last year the Council itself proposed a reduction to between 35 and 40 and in February the Political Leaders (i.e. the Council) proposed 36. Exactly the number the Local Government Boundary Commission for England now supports!