SHOULD Stroud District Council (SDC) reduce its number of councillors to save money or raise the number to increase representation?
That was the debate being thrashed out at the council’s chamber on Thursday last week as councillors disagreed on whether they should change the number of representatives from 51.
The council has been asked to decide what suggestion should be given to the Local Government Boundary Commission on its future size after the 2016 elections.
The commission will decide the council’s size after undertaking a review of the district this year, with view to correct electoral inbalances – where wards have differing numbers of residents.
The Conservatives have been long-time advocates of reducing the council’s size, believing it to be too costly.
Leader of the Tory group on the council, Cllr Keith Pearson (Upton St Leonards), said the council did not need this many councillors.
“At the end of the day we have seen cuts across local authorities of around 10 per cent, therefore what makes us exempt?” he said.
““We believe the public wants this, they think there’s too many of us.”
Cllr Pearson added that many councils were reducing councillor numbers that had higher residents per councillor ratios than Stroud district.
However leader of SDC, Cllr Geoff Wheeler, said it seemed clear that councillors workload had actually increased over the last few years, so reducing the number would increase the burden on surviving members.
“Moreover, it is not just the formal meetings that councillors have to go to but councillors should act as community leaders and they do,” he said.
He added that while the estimation from the review was the councillors work an average of 12 hours a month in their roles, he believed it was much more and this would be compounded by the increasing population.
Independent Conservative Cllr Nigel Studdert-Kennedy said they choose between keeping it as it was or drastically reduce councillor numbers to have the desired affect, not just by a little bit.
“To be honest I have no idea which is better, but what I am convinced of is that the boundary commission doesn’t know either, so I think we should wait and see.”
Eventually the council voted to tell the commission that they should stay the same size.