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Democracy under threat in Cornwall
Just over twelve months ago, the Local Government Boundary Commission “for England” (LGBCE) descended on Cornwall. Councillors were informed that there was going to be a review of the number of elected members on the unitary authority, and that then new divisional boundaries would have to be agreed. Our strong objections were ignored and we were told it had to happen – regardless of what we thought.
The LGBCE met with councillors on a couple of occasions and made it clear that if the unitary authority did not propose a reduction in elected members they would impose a reduction anyway. At one point, they stated that number needed to be somewhere in the range of 26 – 107 (allegedly based on numbers in other councils), though the logic for this was simply illogical.

Cornwall Council’s Electoral Review Panel did a massive amount of work. Evidence we presented to the LGBCE included (i) the fact that any reduction in councillor numbers would leave us amongst those councils with the lowest number of elected members to population in the UK, and that (ii) the present 123 councillors, on average, already worked much more than thirty hours per week.

We attempted – maybe foolishly – to work within the constraints imposed upon us and make the “least worst” of a bad situation! The Council’s Panel finally put forward a proposal for 99 councillors. This was backed by the majority of councillors, while the Conservative group put forward a counter-proposal for 85.

On the 13 June, the LGBCE informed the unitary authority that it was minded to set the number of councillors (from 2021 onwards) at 87!

It has opened a consultation on this figure with three questions:

1. Do you think 87 is the right number of councillors to be able to take decisions effectively?
2, Would a council size of 87 enable the Council to represent the interests of all Cornwall’s communities?
3, If you don’t agree that Cornwall should be represented by 87 councillors, what would your alternative number be, and why?

Comments should be sent to the following address by 7th August 2017:

Review Officer (Cornwall)
14th Floor Millbank Tower

From my perspective, I do not agree with any reduction in the number of councillors – even though we did our best to engage with the LGBCE.

I find it objectionable that they have ignored all of the Council’s detailed representations, and I continue to be extremely angry at how Cornwall’s democracy is being undermined with another significant cull of our elected members, which is not being experienced elsewhere.

Prior to the undemocratic imposition, Cornwall had 331 councillors on principal local authorities. That was cut to 123 in 2009, and now we are expected withstand another reduction to only 87.

It is all frankly ridiculous. After all, in the English counties of Devon and Somerset, they have nearly 500 councillors and over 400 councillors respectively!

Please join me in making representations to the LGBCE.

I can further report that I have just been elected vice-chairman of the Electoral Review Panel and will be heavily involved with the Council’s response to LGBCE.

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Published on 30th June 2017.

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