Should there be fewer Chichester district councillors?

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AFTER lengthy deliberation, residents face a 25 per cent cut in the number of people representing them at Chichester District Council.

The council is set to push ahead with the plans, which would see the number of district councillors reduced from 48 to either 35 or 36 by the 2019 elections.

The move has been backed in the area, with a council paper describing response to a consultation with parishes as ‘small but supportive’.

Plans were mooted for the change last May, with a figure of 35 or 36 councillors agreed in January by a task and finish group set up by the council.

The council has had 48 members since 2002.

“There has for some time been a widespread feeling among members of the council of all political groups that, given the changes that have happened since 2002, the current council has too many members,” said the consultation issued to parishes in January.

The changes included reductions in the number and sizes of committees, a ‘stream-lining of decision making and committee structures’ and new ways of ‘working in the digital age’.

The council also cited a number of members not being ‘truly engaged’ and not attending committee meetings and other events as being a reason why the reduction would be beneficial.

Since January, Fishbourne, Kirdford, Bepton, Wisborough Green and Milland parish councils, plus the Chichester Conservative Association all responded to say they supported the proposals.

Following the feedback, the district council cabinet is meeting today (March 3) and looks set to recommend the plans to full council later this year.

If backed by council, the cut would then be proposed to the Local Government Boundary Commission.

This could mean the district council election in just a few months time is the last one where 48 seats are up for grabs.

“If a review proceeds, the impact is likely to be that ward sizes will increase and include larger populations and, in rural areas, more parishes,” said the council.

The eventual recommendations from the LGBC would not take into account the party political implications of the decision.

In addition, the changing times look set to impact on West Sussex County Council which is also expected to look to cut its councillor numbers.

The county council is subject to a boundary review this year as well with it ‘likely to submit its own proposal on council size by June’, according to Chichester District Council.

If the county council does look at reducing its numbers its boundary review could take place alongside the district council’s.

In February, 2001, there were 84,227 members of the electorate in the Chichester district, compared with 92,185 by June, 2014.

Electoral forecasts to 2021 will be produced at a later stage in the review.