Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Advice to the Council on councillor numbers.

Yesterday there was a meeting to discuss a letter from the Local Government Boundary Electoral Commission ticking off the Council for failing to get the axe out to councillor numbers.

The Commission watched the Council's last discussion, via the webcast, on why they needed at least 105 to 115 councillors - and was none too impressed. This time the Council whinged in private!

Most councillors could see no evidence as to why fewer were needed. I acknowledge that councillor workloads are a particularly difficult issue in large rural divisions. It is also true that technology can create a lot of work as well as save it. It is much easier for residents to phone, text, email, tweet or Facebook us than have to write us a letter.

However, these are a few excerpts from the experts' report who had a close look at the Council and challenged us to be radical and reduce our numbers.

What the experts (Cornwall Council Strategic Governance Review) said:
1. ' The Council had been given 'a once in a decade opportunity to develop and implement a new model of governance' and 'demonstrates ...that Council taken seriously challenge to undertake a fundamental review of its governance upon which the delay in implementing the electoral review in 2021 was based'. (page 5 )
2.'Within the Council, the large proportion of 'backbench' Councillors has led to an unhealthy feeling of marginalisation and disengagement from decisions made by the Executive' (page 6)
3. Councillors' ways of working were 'arguably unsustainable' and 'outmoded'.(page 7)
4. Many councillors felt 'marginalised' and 'disengaged' and this could 'severely impact the effectiveness of the organisation as well as having serious future implications for attracting and retaining councillors' (page 20)
5. On balance mayoral model was rejected (page 22).
6. Portfolio Advisory Committees created a ' significant bureaucratic burden which is a vast draw on both member and officer time whilst achieving only very limited influence' (page 24)
7. A degree of overlap between functions of committees resulting in arguments about areas of responsibility (page 24)
8. 'We support a reform...which would result in fewer committees' (page 26)
9. 'Very limited use is made of technology to reduce Member time spent travelling to meetings' (page 28)
10. Councillors' 'strategic role should have primacy ' (page 29)
11. 'As budgets are reduced and demand for services increase, ..the way Members are currently operating are arguably not sustainable'   (Page 29)
12. Impact of double devolution and a more strategic role for Cornwall Council, leads us to consider that it will require substantially fewer Members to function effectively'. ( page 30)
13. The Council should 'support members to move role away from an obligation to identify and personally solve all problems to developing community resilience alongside local town and parish councils' (page 30)

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