Wards And Councillor Numbers To Be Cut in D&G

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland (the Commission) has submitted its recommendations on councillor numbers and wards for each of Scotland’s 32 council areas to Scottish Ministers, including Dumfries and Galloway.

These recommendations arise from the 5th Reviews of Local Government Electoral arrangements which began in February 2014.The recommendations provide for 351 wards and 1219 councillors across Scotland, an overall decrease of 2 wards and 4 councillors relative to existing arrangements. However, in Dumfries and Galloway there will be a reduction of one ward and a cut of 4 councillors , from 47 to 43. The boundaries of existing wards are being amended.

Dumfries and Galloway Council considered the Commission’s recommendations for over two years. During this period Full Council agreed unanimously to challenge the Commission’s proposals and subsequently wrote to the Commission, on more than one occasion, objecting to the draft plans and calling for a local inquiry to take place in the region to allow local people to give their views on the proposed new boundaries.

The letters to the Commission, which contained views, agreed unanimously by Full Council across all groups, set out the Council’s reasoning for its objections. They state that while the Council accepts fully the statutory basis for the Review, it considers that the methodology adopted by the Commission in determining Councillor numbers was arbitrary and lacking in consistency across Scotland.

The Council agreed to the need for electoral parity, as set out in Legislation, but were of the opinion that no objective reasoning as to why the minimum number of 18 Councillors remains, other than historic precedent. Equally there was no evidence from the Commission as to why a maximum upper limit should be applied.

The Council went on to question the justification for the use of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, since it is widely accepted that the Index is not a good measure of rural deprivation. This measure resulted in the number of councillors being reduced in Dumfries and Galloway with an increase in the numbers in cities.

In addition to the above, the Council believes that there is no evidence to support the assumption on the part of the Commission that a Councillor who represents an area which meets the criteria in the Index will have a greater workload than a Councillor who does not.  The letter suggested that a cynical view may be that the Index was being used as a device for reducing the numbers of Councillors in rural areas and increasing those in urban conurbations.

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said: “Members of Dumfries and Galloway Council agreed unanimously across all groups to challenge the proposals by the boundary commission because the methodology they used for the number of Councillors for our Region, and therefore the subsequent crazy new Ward boundaries were completely flawed. The Commission simply made up the new methodology, which isn’t covered by the rules or laws they are supposed to follow, and I think that shows they are a law unto themselves accountable to no one.”

“I think the fact that they refused to even hold a local inquiry to allow local people in the area to have their views heard and put forward alternatives to the flawed proposals shows the weakness in their Commission’s plans. If the council objected to a Parliamentary boundary proposal, there would be a local inquiry. But local government as usual is treated as second class citizens and the objection has been ignored with no opportunity for local people to properly have their say at an inquiry.  Some of the new wards will cover huge geographical areas and show contempt for local community links.  They will mean local councillors are even most distant from the communities they represent and that’s bad news for local communities.

The Commission’s flawed plans across Scotland have been roundly condemned by councils but the Commission aren’t prepared to listen and it is likely that these plans will simply be passed to Government Ministers to be rubber stamped.”

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