7:55pm Thursday 2nd May 2013
By Vicki Henderson
PROPOSALS to reduce the number of councillors at Darlington Borough Council have received approval from a full meeting of members, as the leader of the council defended the role of councillors.
The authority will recommend to the Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBC) that the number of councillors should be reduced from 52 to 50 as part of a review of the council’s ward boundaries.
Council leader Bill Dixon urged members to tell the commission how much work they carry out on behalf of residents and argued that many community initiatives would not operate without the effort of elected members.
The LGBC launched an electoral review into Darlington Borough Council in March to investigate whether the council needs to make any amendments to its ward boundaries and the number of councillors.
The commission automatically stepped in to carry out the review because the Faverdale ward has a resident to councillor ratio more than 30 per cent above the national average, caused by the expansion of the West Park estate.
Ahead of a submission to the LGBC, a cross-party group of councillors was asked to consider how the role of councillors has changed in recent years and the amount of work members carry out each month before making their proposals. Coun Dixon said: “One of the things I have consistently asked councillors to do since I became leader is to get involved in their own wards and to do what has to be done.
“We all do rather more than canvass every four years. We need people to understand exactly what it is we do.
“Yes, some of the public won’t like it and there will be examples of councillors who don’t do anything. But for every one of those, I can name ten who go above and beyond for their communities.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, gave her backing to the proposals to reduce the number of councillors.
She added: “No matter what we say there will always be some who say we get paid too much and don’t work hard enough.”
The council will submit its proposals to the commission by next week. Any changes will be implemented in time for the 2015 council elections.
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