Ward shake-up in Sidmouth faces criticism
- Credit: Archant
Proposals for a shake-up of Sidmouth Town Council - that could see some wards left with just one representative while another has five - have come under fire from its members.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is looking to equalise the number of representatives per elector. It says that, due to population changes, Sidbury, East and West wards should have only one councillor each - they all currently have two. It is also proposed the South ward should have as many as five councillors. It currently has three.
The LGBCE is also proposing to cut the number of district councillors for the Sid Valley from seven to six to account for growth in East Devon, largely around Cranbrook.
Speaking at Sidmouth Town Council’s March meeting, Councillor Kelvin Dent said: “The proposal for the South ward seems exceedingly extravagant. There’s a risk we will be falling over ourselves. Come the elections, I think we would struggle to find five people to stand.”
LGBCE’s aims include facilitating convenient and effective governance. Cllr Dent argued single-member wards would not achieve this, particularly when properly considering planning applications.
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Cllr Simon Pollentine agreed and said: “There’s a weakness to single-member wards. If someone falls out with you, there’s no-one else to go to. It’s not as easy to mentor a new councillor in a single-member ward.”
Cllr Frances Newth said her East ward involves a lot of casework and the workload would be unmanageable for a single member. Cllr John Hollick had similar concerns for his Sidbury ward, which covers a ‘truly massive’ area.
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Under the LGBCE proposals, Sidbury and the East and West wards would only have three town council representatives between them - half the current total.
In its response to the consultation, Sidmouth Town Council countered that those areas should each have two, as should Sidmouth Rural and Salcombe Regis, while the North, South and Primley wards should each have three. The total number is set to remain at 19.
At district level, it is proposed Sidmouth Rural keeps its single councillor and Sidmouth/Sidford will retain three.
However, the number of councillors representing Sidmouth Town will fall from three to two, as the number of electors per councillor is 19 per cent below the average.