Harborough District Council looks at councillor cuts

Harborough District Council Offices
Harborough District Council Offices

Conservative councillors are looking into an option to reduce the number of elected members for Harborough

District Council.

A report presented to a meeting of the full council on Monday night said that a proposed electoral review could include reducing the number of councillors and also moving to single-member wards “in the interests of efficiency and accountability”.

Tory councillor Paul Dann told the meeting it was one of the options that the council wanted to investigate, and added it had been 13 years since the last review.

And district council leader Blake Pain said it was part of the national Conservative Party’s manifesto to look at any way of reducing council numbers to save taxpayers’ money.

The council has 37 councillors, 20 of whom sit in multi-councillor wards.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Galton said workloads for councillors were already significant - and the proposal would make matters worse.

And fellow Lib Dem Phil Knowles said any re-organisation could mean breaking up natural ward boundaries.

He said the district council’s report seemed to be “leading the [Local Government Boundary] commissioners as to where we want them to go”.

Cllr Phil King (Cons) responded, saying the current Harborough system contained a lot of “iniquities”.

He said that while some councillors served about 1,400 people, others served 2,200.

And he repeated that the Conservative Party’s national aim was to cut the cost of local authorities.

A recorded vote on the electoral review was split on party lines, with 22 Conservatives voting for it, six Lib Dems voting against and the council chairman abstaining.

One factor that could influence the review is the district’s growing population.

At the time of the last report in 2002, the electorate was just 60,504 – this has now risen by 13 per cent to 68,315.

It means the electorate has been growing by one per cent a year.

If that trend continues, the voting franchise could swell to 73,767 by 2020 – an increase of 22 per cent on 2002 levels.