Monday, 6 June 2011

How many councillors should Cornwall have?

There was some pretty shoddy and ill-informed reporting in the Western Morning News last week. The front page and editorial argued that “cash-strapped” Cornwall Council should reduce the number of elected representatives to save money.

The Western Morning News stated that the Council has “123 members – twice the size of the Welsh Assembly, despite having far less power and covering a fraction of the geographic area.” What nonsense!

The 60-member Welsh Assembly is not a council. It is the National Assembly of Wales for heaven’s sake. And below it, there are 22 Welsh Councils with a total membership of 1,255 councillors.

The Western Morning News also made the assertion that “Devon County Council … has just 62 councillors.” This was supported by some comments on the papers website. One stated:

Devon: area 6,564 km2 / population 1,141,600, has 62 councillors
Somerset: area 4,171 km2 / population 912,900, has 58 councillors
Cornwall: area 3,563 km2 / population 534,000, has 123 councillors!!!

Again, what nonsense!

Devon has a County Council (62 members), two unitary authorities – Plymouth (57 members) and Torbay (36 members), plus eight district councils – East Devon (59 members), Exeter (40 members), Mid Devon (42 members), North Devon (43 members), South Hams (40 members), Teignbridge (46 members), Torridge (36 members) and West Devon (31 members).

I make that a total of 492 principal councillors in Devon - exactly four-times the number of councillors in Cornwall.

Somerset meanwhile has a County Council (58 members), two unitary authorities – Bath and North East Somerset (65 members) and North Somerset (61 members), plus five district councils – Mendip (47 members), Sedgemoor (50 members), South Somerset (60 members), Taunton Deane (56 members) and West Somerset (28 members).

I make that a total of 425 principal councillors in Somerset.

The undemocratic imposition of a unitary authority on Cornwall by local Liberal Democrats and the last Labour Government was a disgrace. Prior to 2009, Cornwall had 82 county councillors and 249 district councillors – a total of 331 elected members.

All we have now is a dysfunctional single unitary authority and a massive democratic deficit in Cornwall.

I am a Cornwall Councillor and I take the role seriously. It is more than a full-time job to me and I resent the petty attacks on my role by those who wish to undermine democracy in Cornwall still further.

But we do need democratic reforms. We need to achieve greater self-government through a National Assembly for Cornwall, and we need to rebuild decentralised local government across our nation.

1 comment:

Bob Hayes said...

I can't believe this - a newspaper distorting the truth? Surely not!