All change at Birmingham council: cut to 101 members representing 77 wards
Nineteen of Birmingham’s 120 city councillors will lose their jobs under a radical re-drawing of wards proposed by the Boundary Commission.
The commission’s much-anticipated recommendations published today would see the size of the council reduced to 101 members and the current pattern of 40 three-member wards changed to 77 smaller wards.
Fifty-three of the new wards will have one councillor each and the remaining 24 larger wards, two each, if the recommendations are accepted by the Government.
The proposals mean that some wards will disappear.
Soho and Longbridge will be removed to be replaced by Newtown and West Heath.
New wards designed to more accurately reflect communities will cover areas such as Garrett’s Green, Alum Rock, Saltley and Boldmere.
The new arrangements are due to come into force in 2018 when Birmingham will hold the first of four-yearly ‘all out’ elections, in which 101 councillors will be elected to serve for four years, rather than the existing system where a third of members are elected each year and there are no elections in the fourth year.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England was asked to look at the size of the council following the Kerslake Review which suggested the 40 wards were too big for councillors to be able to represent their constituents properly.
Fifteen of the 20 wards with the largest population in England are in Birmingham. In total 73 per cent of the largest wards in the country are in the city. The result is councillors have a heavy workload and can find it challenging to represent all their residents.
The population of Birmingham is growing quickly and is expected to increase by a further 150,000 by 2031. This is the equivalent to Birmingham absorbing a town around the size of Reading.
The council projects that four wards in the city will have more than 40,000 people in them by 2031. As the population of individual wards grows larger, fulfilling councillors’ role will become even more challenging.
The council is already the third largest in the country, larger than the United States Senate, so simply adding more three member wards and/or increasing the number of councillors is unlikely to be a sustainable solution.
If the Boundary Commission’s proposals are accepted, the average number of voters per councillor will fall from 10,730 to 7,215, which will still be the highest in the UK.
Birmingham council argued in evidence to the commission that more, rather than fewer, councillors were required. The council argued that on a pro rata basis compared with other large cities in England, Birmingham should have at least 150 elected members.
Commission chairman Max Caller said:
We are keen to hear what local people think of the recommendations and how they can be improved.
Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters. This means that each city councillor represents a similar number of electors so that everyone’s vote in city council elections is worth roughly the same regardless of where you live.
We also want to ensure that our proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities across Birmingham and that the pattern of wards can help the council deliver effective local government to local people.
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