Number of seats on Wealden Council could be cut

The number of seats on Wealden District Council could be cut from 55 to between 40 and 45 by the time of the 2019 elections.

A boundary review is taking place in the district as part of a countywide review and the Boundary Commission will make the final decision on ward boundaries and the number of councillors.wealden-district-council-un

But a Wealden Council boundary review working party is recommending to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee a cut of between 40 and 45 members.

The numbers were proposed following a seminar where councillors were asked to consider whether they felt the council needed more councillors, fewer councillors or about the same.

According to a report to the overview and scrutiny committee which meets today, the answer was overwhelming support for the view that the member functions of the council could be undertaken with fewer elected members.

There was further consideration, including an online survey, with councillors being reminded that there must be sufficient members to ensure three specific functions could be carried out, Governance, Scrutiny and Community Representation.

They also considered the effects of future policy developments such as localism, transformation, the possibilities of further shared service and/or devolution of powers, outsourcing and service delivery changes, corporate plan commitments and a future of continued financial constraint due to deficit reduction.

The result was that a majority felt that the council needed between 41 and 45 councillors in the future.

Time spent on council business

Councillors also gave details of the amount of time they spend on council work.

Sixty-five per cent said they spent one to three hours a week on average at council meetings and 43% spend one to three hours a week attending non-formal council meetings.

Dealing with constituents takes on average three to five hours a week and community obligations about one to three hours a week.

Fifty-seven per cent of responders considered the role of a councillor had changed since they were first elected mainly because there were fewer meeting to attend and because of the outsourcing of services.

Fifty per cent felt the workload had decreased or stayed the same. Again the main reason given was attendance at fewer meetings.

Those who had seen their role increase had taken on greater responsibilities, or said parish councils expected more them. The use of social media was also leading to an increased expectation from residents.

Engagement with constituents was mainly through telephone, emails and attending community events.

When asked to select the statement that best described the role of the council in the future, 57% felt it would have an increased “enabling” role with fewer directly employed staff, more contracted-out services and more shared services. This was followed by 25% considering the role would continue as it is.

The full report to the overview and scrutiny committee can be seen here: Report of the Boundary Review Working Party.

*All 55 seats currently on Wealden Council are up for election on Thursday, May 7, this year and nominations for people interested in standing close at 4pm on Thursday, April 9.

There’s more information about becoming a councillor on the Wealden website here: Do you want to be a councillor

* Elections for Uckfield Town Council are also being held on May 7. If you are interested in standing more information is available at the town council offices at Uckfield Civic Centre.

See also:

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