Councillor numbers could be cut

THE number of councillors on North Somerset Council could be slashed to help the authority deal with cuts.

The authority currently has 61 members, but is in the process of finding ways to make cuts of �47.3million and its corporate services scrutiny committee is now looking at cutting the number.

Last week the Mercury reported on Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Canniford’s suggestion to trim the number of representatives, and it appears there is support across the political spectrum for such a move.

The committee’s chairman, Conservative David Pasley, said there were ‘no no-go areas’ his panel would not consider, while the idea also has support from Labour group leader Richard Tucker.

Councillors are entitled to a basic annual allowance of �8,136, while they can also be awarded payments for extra duties in groups or panels.

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Cllr Pasley said: “As a scrutiny committee we are looking at this situation with completely fresh eyes, there are no no-go areas and the number of councillors is something we are looking at.

“The members of the committee are looking at whether we as councillors are doing a good job, at the costs, and if there are any better ways we can do things.

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“One thing that makes sense to me as chairman of the committee, is looking at how councillors can draw on their strengths in fulfilling their duties.

“Members of the council come from all different walks of life, and surely it makes sense to have someone who has experience in one area dealing with matters related to it, as opposed to someone who has no experience - it would improve our efficiency as an authority.”

Cllr Tucker said: “I think there would certainly be a lot of support for this among the different parties. If you look at cities like Bristol or Birmingham, they operate with relatively few councillors considering the amount of people they represent, so there probably are too many councillors in North Somerset.

“Although I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest cutting it by half, I would certainly think reducing the number by around 10 should be something we should be looking at.”

If councillor numbers were to be reduced, they would likely come into effect at the next district elections in 2015 while changes to the existing boundaries would be likely.

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