Thursday, 17 December 2015

Cornwall already has less elected representatives than other parts of UK

On 23rd November, I wrote about how three representatives of the “Local Government Boundary Commission for England” (sic) came to Cornwall and informed councillors that we had to undertake an immediate boundary review (ie. number of councillors and ward boundaries) for the 2017 council elections.

This was in spite of the fact that the so-called “devolution deal” between Cornwall Council and central government included the following:

“Cornwall Council will take forward a council boundary review. The boundary review is expected to reduce the number of local councillors and will be taken forward by the Boundary Commission. This review will commence in 2017.”

At Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, it was agreed to set up a cross-party panel to undertake the work and I will be MK’s representative on the body.

Councillors across the chamber are extremely upset about the rushed review that will no ensue.

And I am also saddened at the initial wave of press coverage, which is factually challenged and very demeaning of the role and work of Cornwall Councillors.

Graham Smith writing in the Cornish Guardian made the ridiculous statement that: “The size of Cornwall Council, which has 123 councillors, has been a cause for concern … the Welsh Assembly has only 60 members and the Scottish Parliament is not much bigger than Cornwall Council, with 126 (sic).” There are actually 129 MSPs.

First, this is a ridiculous comparison as the unitary authority is most certainly a parliament or an assembly, and the reality is that Cornwall (population 535,000) has less councillors than most other areas.

Prior to the creation of the unitary authority, Cornwall had 331 councillors on principal local authorities. It now has only 123.

Scotland (population 5.3 million) has 1,222 principal authority councillors, while Wales (population 3.1 million) has 1,254 councillors on its 22 unitary authorities.

The contrast with the local government arrangements in the neighbouring English counties of Devon and Somerset is also very stark. Devon (population 1.4 million) has 492 councillors, while Somerset (population 913,000) has 425 councillors.

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