UKIP Telford & Wrekin
Submission to the LBGCE on councillor numbers
The Conservative group secured a vote at full council in January 2011 to make a request to the Boundary Commission for a review of the borough’s electoral arrangements. The Conservative group has submitted a proposal to reduce the number of borough councillors from 54 to 44 whilst the Labour group have submitted individual responses to the Boundary Commission’s consultation in favour of the status quo. The Labour-controlled borough council has also made a submission in favour of the status quo.
- Would 44 councillors be sufficient to support the current ‘leader and cabinet’ model of decision making in Telford & Wrekin? Or are 54 councillors required to undertake the full range of the authority’s responsibilities?By delegating powers and accountability from the borough council to parish councils we believe that the borough council could easily function with 44 or less borough councillors. However, this is outside of the remit of the Boundary Commission’s review. In the context of what is currently on the table we believe that 54 is a sufficient number of borough councillors to service the needs of residents of Telford & Wrekin for the foreseeable future.However, we are conscious of the fact that money is in short supply and that local authorities all over the country, including Telford & Wrekin, are seeing real terms cuts in central government funding accompanied by increased responsibilities and obligations. With that in mind, we submit that retaining 54 borough councillors must include the following cost-cutting measures to be viable:
a. Reduce the allowances paid to borough councillors by 50%. This will save around a quarter of a million pounds per year in allowances and will go some way to ensuring that the candidates that put themselves forward for election to the borough council are those who wish to perform a public service rather than those that are merely attracted to the £7,870 per year basic allowance and the prospect of up to £23,768 per year in special responsibility allowances.
b. Abolish the role of the Chief Executive/Managing Director, share his administrative duties amongst other directors and pass his leadership duties to the leader of the council. The council operates under a “strong leader” structure so there is no rational argument for an unelected Chief Executive/Managing Director also providing strong leadership to the council. Taking pension contributions, expenses and administrative costs into account as well as his £140k salary, we conservatively estimate that this will save somewhere in the region of £200k per year.
The average amount of time spent on council duties according to the council’s own survey was 90 hours per month. The basic allowance paid to councillors would equate to an average of £7.29 per hour. However, the Conservative group’s submission points out that the 90 hours per month figure is skewed somewhat by the executive members who naturally put in more hours and are paid special responsibility allowances to reflect this and by the 83% of councillors who are also parish councillors (some sit on more than one parish council as well as the borough council) whose time working as a parish councillor is included in the 90 hours. The workload of most borough councillors as borough councillors is overstated in the council’s survey and 42.9% of borough councillors are retired or don’t work.
- Would 44 councillors be able to hold the council’s main decision makers to account as well as representing the council on bodies outside the council?We believe that the borough council could function with 44 councillors by delegating power and accountability to parish councils but accept that this is outside of the remit of this consultation. By implementing the cost-cutting measures detailed above the council can maintain the current level of 54 councillors and provide good value for the taxpayer.The average number of electors per councillor of between 2,500-3,000 is low when compared to neighbouring Shropshire Council which, despite being a largely rural authority with all the extra time, inconvenience and complexity that entails for councillors, has around 4,000 electors per councillor.
- Would all communities in Telford and Wrekin receive an effective level of representation with 54 or 44 councillors? How would maintaining, or reducing, the number of councillors affect the way you are represented?We believe that the borough council could function with 44 councillors by delegating power and accountability to parish councils but accept that this is outside of the remit of this consultation. By implementing the cost-cutting measures detailed above the council can maintain the current level of 54 councillors and provide good value for the taxpayer.