Cheltenham Borough Council will look at cutting councillors and shifting to four yearly elections
WHEELS have been set in motion to cut the cost of democracy in Cheltenham.
Borough council bosses have agreed to look at moving elections to a four-yearly cycle and also to explore how the number of councillors can be reduced.
Elections are currently held in the town every two years but many councillors have bemoaned the system as 'democracy in instalments'.
They point to the possible savings of moving to a longer cycle, thought to be about £25,000 a year, as well as giving voters the chance to completely change an administration as reasons for the proposed shift.
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A motion was put before a meeting of the full council on Friday afternoon by leader of the Conservative group, Councillor Rob Garnham.
He said: "Saving money and better democracy. I think it's important that we do go to four yearly elections and to look at the cost of democracy.
"Let's grasp it now. Let's look at the cost of democracy now. The government has done it and the county council has done it.
"The borough council has said that the £25,000 it would save a year by doing this is relatively small. No it's not.
"Let's act with speed and get this decision made."
After a small amount of tweaking the motion was unanimously agreed by all councillors.
Councillor Tim Harman, who has been fighting for the shift, said he wants to give the people of Cheltenham 'the best option'.
He said: "I sparked this debate off in December and it is important to save money. I believe it would strengthen democracy because it gives the electorate the chance to change administration.
"We elect our Parliament and our European Parliament in one go, rather than having democracy in instalments."
The issue of reducing the number of councillors who sit on the borough council has been rumbling on for many months.
Some people have advocated cutting the number of members in half to 20, but concerns have been raised that such a number would be unworkable in terms of staffing committees.
Meanwhile, the Boundary Commission has said that it is unlikely to consider plans for anything less than 30 councillors.
Should any reduction take place the Boundary Commission would be charged with redrawing the borough's ward boundaries to ensure each councillor represented a fair number of voters.
Councillor Steve Jordan, leader of the council, said: "We have already asked at cabinet to look in to this anyway, so I am entirely happy to have a report come back to in March on this.
"The important question is what sort of council Cheltenham needs. That's the starting point, not can we scrap a couple of elections to save some money."
A report on the possibilities will be presented to full council next month.