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Bid to slash number of councillors in Southampton
IT’S the choice of the people that could save the city hundreds of thousands of pounds and slash the number of councillors.
Under radical new plans a third of councillors in Southampton could be cut, while elections could be held once every four years.
They are just two of the possible outcomes of a major review of the city’s political map.
It means that from 2016 onwards the city could have 32 councillors instead of 48, and new electoral wards.
Consultation carried out ahead of the Labour council’s new budget for 2014/15 saw many residents suggesting councillor numbers should be cut.
The Conservative opposition have also proposed axing a third of councillors, which they say would save £250,000 per year.
Labour council leader Simon Letts says he is also “minded to seek a reduction of councillors”, although he says he is open-minded as to how many should go.
All of the party leaders have asked the Boundary Commission – the only organisation with the power to redraw boundaries – to carry out a review.
Any changes would come into effect in 2016 and would trigger city-wide elections.
There could also be a change to the frequency that elections are held. Currently they take place in three out of every four years, but from 2016 onwards they may only happen once every four years.
Proposals to cut the numbers of councillors have met with a mixed response.
Conservative group leader Royston Smith said: “My theory is that if you are cutting the number of staff at the council, then you should cut the number of councillors as well.
“Being a councillor and helping residents is a much quicker process these days due to email and other developments, and less support is needed, so we don’t need three councillors in each ward.”
But some Labour councillors are less sure.
Millbrook councillor Georgie Laming said: “I feel that it depends on how many residents are in each ward – three is a good number because sometimes it can ensure that you have a diverse amount of people representing the ward.”
And colleague Darren Paffey, from Peartree, said: “If the population is going up, then I would want to see that there is evidence we can carry out work to represent our constituents to a satisfactory level with fewer councillors.”
If councillors were reduced by a third, with the current council make-up, Labour would lose at least seven of their 28 councillors if numbers were reduced by a third.
The Conservatives would lose at least three from their 16.
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