Councillor numbers should be cut in half, poll shows
CUTS need to be made to the number of civic leaders in Cheltenham, an online poll by the Echo has revealed.
The vast majority of residents believe the number of councillors in the town should be slashed in half.
Reducing the number of representatives who sit on the borough council by 50 per cent was backed by 85 per cent of respondents to the survey.
The idea of slimming the authority down so that there would be 20 councillors representing 20 wards – rather than the existing 40 councillors – was floated by Councillor Barbara Driver (Lansdown, C).
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Supporters of the cut believe doing so would save the cash-strapped authority thousands of pounds every year.
The money that the council would save could then be spent on protecting services or even slashing council tax.
They also point to the notion that councillors have fewer responsibilities than they used to and as such fewer people could do the work.
But while some members believe a reduction should be examined, others have rejected the idea.
Councillor Roger Whyborn (Up Hatherley, LD), cabinet member for sustainability, said: "This is something that is being looked at but the suggestion that we should halve the number of councillors is not practical or workable.
"If that was the case we wouldn't be able to staff committees and we would not have a working cabinet, but certainly we can look at reducing the number of councillors and the cost of democracy to some degree.
"We recognise there is a debate. I cannot say that there are any proposals on the table but that is not to say that there won't be."
Councillor Diggory Seacome (Lansdown, C) said halving the number of councillors would have huge ramifications.
He also highlighted the fact that even a smaller reduction would cause problems, with the possibility that ward boundaries would have to be redrawn.
He said: "There is no simple answer really unless you cut it by half and I am not sure if cutting it in half would be beneficial to residents."
There have been also calls from councillors in the past to look at shifting elections from being held in the borough every two years, as is currently the case, to one every four years to save money.
Councillor Rob Garnham (Park, C), Conservative group leader, said: "It is good to hear what the public say about politicians and the first thing we need to do at the borough council is to move to four yearly elections and then look at the number of councillors.
"At some point in the future we should look at whether or not we need 40 councillors in Cheltenham."