Stone and surrounding villages will have three fewer representatives on Stafford Borough Council after local elections next May. The Borough Council overall will have 40 councillors, 19 fewer than at present with the number of borough councillors representing Stone and District reducing from 15 to 12.
These are the findings of the independent Local Government Boundary Commission which has drawn new boundaries for each borough council ward following a ten-week public consultation.
In the Stone area, boundary changes will reduce the number of wards from seven to six. Christchurch will be absorbed in the new St Michael’s and Stonefield ward and Oulton will leave Barlaston to join Swynnerton. The new St Michael’s and Stonefield ward will have 3 councillors instead of two, Milwich will get a second councillor, Walton and Fulford will each lose one of their three councillors and Barlaston will lose one councillor.
Why has this come about? The Local Government Boundary Commission carries out reviews about every 15 years to ensure equality of representation, reflect the identities and interests of local communities and secure effective and convenient local government.
The Council itself had been party to these deliberations, which go back a long way. As the Council Leader’s 2011 Review of Council Membership sets out, councillor numbers have fluctuated ever since Stafford Borough Council was established in 1974. From an original membership of 57, it grew to 60 in 1979 but reduced to its current tally of 59 members in 2003.
But over time, the Council has lost many of its functions, for example responsibility for public housing stock and highways (apart from parking). With the decrease in Council functions has come a reduction in its budget, with members’ costs forming a small but increasing proportion of it.
Though SBC members’ allowances are consistently set lower than average, expenditure on members has risen from 0.43% (£111,000) of the Council’s budget in 1999/2000 to 2.43% (£375,000) in 2010/11.
The Council Leader’s Review recommended reducing councillor numbers by about one third.
“This would give a ratio of members to seats on committees etc. of about 1:3 so that there would be sufficient members to fulfil the necessary roles within the Council….There would be a ratio of members to electors of about 1:2450 which, although 11% higher than the highest current ratio, would still maintain the connection between the members and their electors and communities.”
The proposed new arrangements will take legal effect through a draft order to be presented to Parliament in the next few months.