Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Electoral Review
Members considered a request for an electoral review of the Borough’s wards and the overall numbers and distribution of Councillors, to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (GBCE), in the light of recent and future borough population changes.
Councillor Dudley apologised for the late circulation of the report. The Conservative Group had agreed the previous night that the report should be brought to Council. In light of this he had called the Leader of the Opposition to explain the proposal; Councillor Mrs Jones had been supportive of the idea although she had not viewed the actual report.
Councillor Dudley explained that West Berkshire, with 52 Councillors, had requested a review and it was expected the review would recommend a reduction to 40 councillors. Table 1 highlighted that the Royal Borough was the least efficient in East Berkshire. This was not right when officers were being asked to make efficiency savings, therefore he proposed a request be made to the GBCE to conduct a review of wards and councillors and the outcomes be implemented. As the town grew the metrics would likely be breached anyway therefore it made sense to get on with the process now. The review would factor in housing increases in specific areas.
Councillor Beer stated that he was not opposed to the review, but he was concerned at the late issuing of the report and felt it could have waited until the next meeting. He had spoken to Councillor Jones who was under the impression the council had no choice but to undertake the review. Councillor Beer highlighted that Elmbridge was a district council rather than a unitary authority and therefore a direct comparison could not be made. The council had an enormous number of committees which often verged on being inquorate. This issue would need to be considered in future.
Councillor D. Wilson stated that he was supportive of the proposal, particularly given officers were being asked to make reductions. At the last review, a number of streets had been removed from the Oldfield ward area. Since then there had been significant population increases as a result of the regeneration in the town centre. The Oldfield ward had been at 23.9% at the time of the last election, close to the breach threshold. If Oldfield reached 30% this would necessitate a review across the whole borough anyway. It was therefore perfectly reasonable to undertake the review now.
Councillor Brimacombe commented that when officers reviewed services, in some instances this had resulted in an increase in resources. He was supportive of the review if it was not prejudged that it would result in a reduction in the number of councillors. He looked forward to seeing the baseline criteria that were used at the 2003 review and the changes considered for the review to come.
Councillor Dudley referred to the statement made by the Mayor at the beginning of the meeting and highlighted that the additional three months gained by not waiting until the next meeting would help ensure the review could be undertaken and changes implemented by the next local elections in 2019. He highlighted that all the authorities compared in Table 1 were unitary.
Councillor Werner commented that the last Liberal Democrat manifesto had proposed a reduction in councillor numbers, in addition to a reduction in allowances. He commented that members of the Group of Three were independent with no political whip.
It was proposed by Councillor Dudley, seconded by Councillor Bicknell, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Full Council endorses a request be made to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to undertake a review of Member numbers and ward boundaries in RBWM, and delegates authority to the Managing Director and the Returning Officer to prepare the necessary justification to initiate a review request and implement recommendation prior to May 2019
Councillor Targowska left the meeting at 9.04pm.