Oldham Liberal Democrats ‘disappointed’ at Boundary Commission’s refusal to cut councillor numbers by a third and save cash

The Oldham Council Liberal Democrat Group was disappointed to hear that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has refused to cut Councillor numbers and costs.

Liberal Democrats suggested a reduction in Councillors in their submission to the LGBCE late last year.

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council currently has twenty electoral wards, represented by sixty elected councillors. The Boundary Commission called for responses to a consultation to review the number of councillors in November.

At the meeting of the full council (4 November 2020), the Labour Administration backed a report proposing that the status quo be maintained, but in the vote the Liberal Democrats abstained.

The Liberal Democrats instead submitted their own proposal that the number of Councillors be reduced to two per ward believing that less councillors are now needed with a Cabinet-run council and with most business being conducted using new technology.

This is a proposal they have made every year at budget time since 2012. It is estimated that this measure would save Council taxpayers at least £190,000 each year, but there would be a further saving as there would only need to be two local elections every four years, instead of three at present.

The Boundary Commission chose to reject this proposal.

The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, said: “This is disappointing news. Times have changed since the current councillor numbers were agreed upon. The Committee system has been replaced with a Cabinet so only a handful of Councillors are involved in daily decision-making. We now live in a world of social media, emails and online meetings rather than taking letters to a typing pool or resorting to faxes, making the conduct of council business far quicker and easier, without the time-consuming commuting.”

Howard Sykes, looking out across Shaw

“Even more important the number of staff at the Council and the budget with which the Council delivers services have halved over the last decade,” added Councillor Sykes. “We believe it is only right and proper that the number of councillors should be reduced and both staff numbers, services and budgets have.”

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