Council accused of using ‘loaded question’ in consultation

Plans to reduce the amount of town councillors in North Lincolnshire have been criticised as “undemocratic”.

Opposition to the council’s plans was made at a highly attended Governance Scrutiny Panel meeting tonight (September 6) where panel members discussed the recommendations to reduce the number of councillors following a 10 month consultation.

Criticism was aired from the public gallery where members of the public and some town councillors were present during the meeting.

Town councillors at the meeting were not speaking on behalf of their councils.

Catherine Whittingham, Broughton, said that the recommendations made in the report were undemocratic and that the consultation process was flawed.

“We live in a democracy,” she said.

“But that should not be taken for granted.

“The question put out in the consultation was a loaded one and did not explain that town councillors are not paid.”

The report recommends that the amount of town councillors across eight town councils in the region be reduced.

The panel agreed on the following recommendations.

  • Reducing the number of councillors on Bottesford Town Council from 24 to 12.
  • Reducing the number of councillors on Barton Town Council from 22 to 12.
  • Reducing the number of councillors on Kirton, Crowle and Ealand, Brigg, Broughton, Epworth and Winterton to 9.
  • Merging the parish of Holme into Messingham Parish Council.

The recommendations come after a Community Governance Review was carried about by the council following concerns raised by Barton Town Council about the ward system in the area.

Concerns were also raised by Holme parish which said it was ceasing to operate as a parish council.

However, questions were raised from the public gallery as to why the review needed to consider six other councils.

Paul McCartan, Winterton, said that the review was a “trojan horse sledge hammer” into the volunteers on town councils.

“I don’t understand why I feel like I am always fighting the district council,” he said.

“Why can’t we come together to decide how we can make Winterton or other areas better?”

Further questions were raised as to how the proposals would save the local authority money.

Chair of the panel, Councillor David Robinson, said that the meeting was made for discussion of the recommendations but that no implementation of the report would be made until after full council.

“Discussions have been had over the past 10 months since the panel was given the terms of reference for the consultation,” he said.

“Nothing will be ordered until after the report has been presented to the full council in a few weeks time.”

He added that public events were held for concerns to be raised by members of the public.

However, further criticism was made of the evidence given in the report including the electorate projections for the council areas in relation to the amount of councillors representing them.

Councillor Robinson said that the evidence given in the report was from a council officer and that the remit of the panel to make recommendations comes from the full council.

Panel member, Councillor Steve Swift, criticised the numbers given in the report.

“At no point has this panel discussed or debated the number of councillors recommended for each council,” he said.

Councillor Robinson said that the panel has had extensive discussions on the topics in the report for the past 10 months.

An amendment was tabled by Councillor Swift to keep the amount of councillors across six of the town councils the same while supporting the recommendations for Barton and Holme.

The amendment was voted down and the recommendations were passed by the panel.

The recommendations will now go before the council’s full meeting on September 19.

Article originally appeared in Scunthorpe Telegraph

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