Size of council is ‘right for Leeds’

BIG DECISIONS: A meeting in the main council chamber at Leeds Civic Hall. Picture: Tony Johnson
BIG DECISIONS: A meeting in the main council chamber at Leeds Civic Hall. Picture: Tony Johnson
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The number of councillors elected onto Leeds City Council is “in no way excessive” and should not be reduced if and when new boundaries are drawn up, it is claimed.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is carrying out a review of the size of the council, both in terms of number of wards and total number of elected councillors.

The city currently has 33 wards with three councillors elected to each, a total of 99.

And the authority has now put together a 120-page submission arguing its case to keep the status quo.

The document - compiled with the help of a number of third parties - claims “the role of local ward members is vital and any reduction would be to the detriment of localities”.

The review was discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the authority’s executive board, its first of 2016.

Deputy leader of the council James Lewis said that in the next few years, Leeds will be 20 per cent larger in terms of population, and the makeup of the council will need to continue to reflect both the size and diversity of the city

He pointed out that of the largest UK ‘core’ cities, only Birmingham’s councillors represented more people per ward member than Leeds.

Andrew Carter, leader of the main opposition Conservative group, stressed the amount of work expected of councillors nowadays is more than ever before and that the average councillor now looks after 18,000 Leeds electors.

“That’s a lot of work,” he said.

“People rightly expect a service from their councillors.

“The Boundary Commission needs to understand that it’s not about what we say down here, it’s about what we do back in our wards.”

Stewart Golton, leader of the Lib Dem group, added that one part of his own Rothwell ward is due to expand by 60 percent in the next few years, based on housing and population projections.

“You shouldn’t, at a time when your society is growing, diminish its representation,” he said.

The dossier being sent to the Boundary Commission includes testimony from other publicly funded agencies like the police and parish councils, and independent commentators. One points out that local councils have been handed new responsibilities for licensing and public health, and “the role of the councillor becomes even more important” as a result.

“It would appear that the number of 99 is in no way excessive,” another adds. “Now is not the time to be reducing engagement with local communities by reducing the spread of councillors across the metropolitan city.”

An initial decision on the new make-up of the council is expected in late February or early March.

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