Councillors hit back at claims that Woodbridge suffers ‘democratic deficit’

Three district councillors have hit back at accusations of inducing a ‘democratic deficit’ within the area they represent.

The Woodbridge ward Conservatives responded to claims by county councillor, Liberal Democrat, Caroline Page, that the town was poorly represented.

Since boundary changes in 2015, Woodbridge and nearby villages have been represented by three councillors – Geoff Holdcroft and Patti Mulcahy, who sit on Woodbridge town council, and Great Bealings parish council vice chairman, Colin Hedgley.

In a blog post, denouncing plans for housing at the old headquarters of Suffolk Coastal District Council, Ms Page wrote: “I would urge the residents of Woodbridge to take this matter up with their district councillor – but the democratic deficit that exists in this area since the last boundary changes is so egregious as to hardly need mentioning.

“Instead of the four councillors you had – one for each ward (Farlingaye, Seckford, Kyson and Riverside) – you now have three for a larger Woodbridge and district: councillors Hedgley, Holdcroft and Mulcahy – all of one party, by your express wish.

“By an arrangement they have between themselves, councillor Hedgley deals with the rural villages, leaving Woodbridge town represented by councillors Holdcroft and Mulcahy. And councillor Holdcroft (amidst a proliferation of other hats, including town councillor) is a Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) cabinet member and on the SCDC planning committee, and is therefore unable to comment on planning matters... this leaves you with a significant democratic deficit.”

In a joint statement, the three accused said “nothing could be further from the truth”.

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The councillors called Ms Page’s claim, that an arrangement had been made for Mr Hedgley to deal with rural villages, a “gross misrepresentation of the truth”.

Instead, the councillors argued they shared the task of visiting parish and town meetings, rather than all attending at once.

They said: “Like every district councillor, we are all available to deal with, and do deal with residents issues and concerns, no matter where in the ward they live or who they voted for.”

The statement concluded that 16 town councillors, three district councillors and one county councillor constituted a “very healthy level of representation”.