Reduced councillor numbers delayed to 2025 in Suffolk
- Credit: SCC/ORDNANCE SURVEY/CROWN COPYRI
Plans for a shake-up of a Suffolk council’s ward boundaries, which will see a reduction in the number of elected members and savings of more than £100,000,looks set to be postponed until 2025.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England began work last summer on a review for Suffolk County Council, which proposed a six figure saving from a reduction of five councillors.
The final consultation phase on the draft plans was meant to take place this month so that any revisions to ward boundaries could be implemented in time for the authority’s next election in May 2021.
But it is understood that final consultation has now been delayed because of the coronavirus lockdown making the consultation process difficult.
It means the plans are unlikely to be completed in time to implement them before May 2021, meaning the new boundaries won’t be seen before the 2025 election.
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The delay has been welcomed by opposition groups at the authority, which both said now was not the time to debate it.
But the revamp, which would effectively see the authority return to a single councillor per division instead of some having two, could also put an extra burden on councillors, it was warned.
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Councillor Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, said: “Although we agree that single councillor divisions are the best option, the forecast increase in housing and resident numbers means it is vital that the total number of councillors remains the same.
“Any cut in councillor numbers will reduce the service that councillors can provide to their residents and undermines democracy.
“The increased workload will also make it more difficult for young councillors and those with jobs or caring responsibilities to participate in local government – and those are the exact people we need representing us as councillors. If we want a diverse council, the workload cannot increase any further.”
The council’s Labour group leader Sarah Adams added: “Given the immensely challenging situation we find ourselves in, it is sensible that the review of county council division boundaries will be delayed until after next year’s election. Postponing the review will allow us all to focus on the task before us without any unnecessary distractions. “Frankly, the arguments over the number of councillors at Suffolk County Council pales into insignificance compared to what we are facing now – that debate can wait another day.” A Conservative group spokeswoman said the party had no additional comments.