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Birmingham Council to be cut by 20 members from 2018

Birmingham Council to be cut by 20 members from 2018

🕔21.Jul 2015

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England has announced that it is minded to recommend that, from 2018, Birmingham city council should have 100 councillors – 20 fewer than the current arrangements.

The Commission is now asking local people for their help to draw up a new pattern of council wards for Birmingham City Council.

The Commission needs information from people and groups across Birmingham to help it to produce a new pattern of wards to accommodate 100 city councillors.

In drawing up new boundaries, the Commission aims to deliver electoral equality for voters in council elections so that each councillor represents roughly the same number of voters. The review also aims to ensure that the new council wards reflect, as far as possible, the interests and identities of communities across Birmingham.

The Commission decided to conduct its electoral review following publication of Sir Bob Kerslake’s (now Lord Kerslake) report on the governance and organisational capabilities of Birmingham city council. The report recommended that an electoral review should be conducted ‘to help the council produce an effective model of representative governance.’

Max Caller CBE, Chair of the Commission, said:

The first part of the electoral review is for the Commission to come to a view on the total number of councillors that should be elected to the council in the future. Our judgment is that 100 councillors is the right number to provide effective local government for Birmingham.

In coming to our conclusion…we have taken into account a range of evidence. We have concluded that 100 councillors will help the council address the failings of the past, reflect the process of change which is already underway as well as helping councillors and staff to deliver its ambitions for the future.

The Kerslake report highlighted how the council needs to change. In particular, it described how the current quantity of councillors, committees and decision making bodies had not always translated into a high quality of representation for local people or allowed the council to develop a vision for the future.

We have also examined the council’s response to the Kerslake report and found that they support the thrust of its conclusions. The response demonstrated to us that the process of change in Birmingham is underway. For example, the council has already thought about how it will streamline its scrutiny processes and how the wasteful overlap of effort between elected members and council staff could be reduced.

Yesterday, Chamberlain Files reported on the Council’s progress in implementing the Kerslake recommendations with a critical letter from the Panel’s chair to Communities Secretary Greg Clark. 

Commenting on the Boundary Commission’s conclusion on the size of the city council, leader Sir Albert Bore said:

These proposals will come into effect in three years, by which time we will have seen big changes in how the Council operates through the Future Council programme.  I am pleased that the Commission has recognised that the process of change in Birmingham is underway and that we have a clear vision for the future governance of the city that will address past failings and future plans.

This vision stretches from the city region down to local neighbourhoods – the Triple Devolution model, which we have been proposing for some three years.  Over time this will enable us to operate with a more streamlined, strategic City Council, whilst strengthening representation at the more local level and creating effective leadership for the city region with our partner authorities.

As I said in the submission on behalf of the Executive to the Commission, these changes would mean that we could operate in the future with no fewer than 100 members and this has been recognised.

I also said in that submission that the city’s scale and significance make it a potential pioneer in new local governance arrangements.  We hope that government will now work with us as we take forward further changes to local democracy that could be of interest across the country.”

Mr Caller added:

…the Leader and Executive team set out several possible governance arrangements for the future which could be supported by a 100-councillor model.

The Commission was persuaded that past failings, current activity and future plans of the authority could best be addressed, encouraged and delivered by a council size of 100 members.

We are now asking local people and organisations to help us draw up new wards for Birmingham. As we develop the recommendations, we will take into account local community identities as well as ensuring electoral equality for voters.

We will carefully consider all evidence that is provided during this phase of the review whoever it is from and whether it applies to the whole of Birmingham or just a small part of the city.

Each ward in Birmingham is currently represented by three councillors. There is no longer a legal requirement for a uniform pattern of three-member wards across the city. This means that the Commission is free to draw up wards that elect one, two or three councillors depending on the evidence presented to it about each local area. Given the evidence we have already seen about local accountability in existing wards, proposals for one or more three-member wards should carefully consider why such an arrangement would reflect the criteria we must consider when we draw up new boundaries.

Residents will then have a further chance to have their say after we publish our draft recommendations in December.

Chamberlain Files understands that the Commission advised the Council to re-consider its original submission to the Commission which included options to increase the number of councillors. The political groups subsequently put in separate documents , we understand.

Sir Albert Bore urged people to have their say on the review of ward boundaries that begins today:

Moving to all out elections and smaller wards with one or two councillors will be a big change from the system of local democracy we have become used to. It is important that the new boundaries reflect the local areas that people know.

All the political groups on the Council will be making their proposals but I want to see local people and communities have their say – it is your local democracy and your neighbourhood boundaries that are being reviewed.

Local people have until 28 September 2015 to submit their views. Further information on the review and interactive maps of the existing wards can be found here  and here.

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