[M]AYOR Mike Starkie will formally request that the number of Copeland councillors is reduced by more than a third.
Mr Starkie will make a personal submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBC) that the council size should reduce from 51 to 33 councillors. He made the decision after councillors voted to reject an independent recommendation to support the reduced figure.
The submission will be made tomorrow (Friday) to the LGBC by Mr Starkie as Mayor of the borough, albeit without the support of councillors.
Mr Starkie said: “I’m disappointed that this recommendation to reduce the size of this Council to 33 has been rejected – and I’m doubly disappointed that it has been rejected in a three-line whipped vote in which the majority of councillors put party politics and self-interest above an independent recommendation and the views of the electorate.
“I’ve had a long-held belief that this Council is over-governed and the number of 51 is disproportionately high.
“I will therefore submit the report to the LGBC that the council size should reduce to 33, supported by the independent research, albeit without the support of the Labour Group on the Council. I thank all the non-Labour councillors who supported this unanimously.
“The LGBC has made it crystal clear that it expects a report from Copeland Council and that is what they shall have.
“We cannot find ourselves in the unenvious position of being in the hands of the LGBC, without any formal submission from this Council. It would be a missed opportunity to be heard on this matter of utmost importance.
“This council has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years, in terms of budget, staff and responsibilities, and yet the figure of 51 councillors has remained the same, with the ratio of councillors to the electorate as the lowest in Cumbria. This has to change.
“We have a large number of dedicated and experienced councillors, whose contribution is of enormous value to this Council and the residents of Copeland.
“However, given the fundamental changes that the Council has experienced latterly, we believe 33 is an appropriate and sustainable number of councillors for us to have in the future.”
What has led to this point:
- In October 2015, Copeland Council voted to invited the Local Government Boundary Commission to conduct a review of its governance, including the size of the council (in terms of number of councillors), ward boundaries and ward names.
- The LGBC invited Copeland Council to make a submission on its preferred size of council.The LGBC did not conduct any public consultation during this period.
- Copeland Council instructed an independent person, with the support of a group of council officers from various departments, to carry out a three-month study to produce the preferred council size figure. Councillors have been briefed and engaged throughout the process.
- Copeland Council must make its submission on preferred council size to the LGBC by September 15.
What happens next:
- The LGBC will now consider the submission and make its announcement on council size in October
- The LGBC will then launch two rounds of public consultation (from October 2017 to January 2018 and March 2018 to May 2018) so it can re-draw the council boundaries based on the new number. Copeland Council will also be invited to make a submission on this matter.
- The LGBC will announce the final governance arrangements in July 2018 and all will take affect from the next elections in May 2019.