The Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration which runs the council wants to reduce the number of councillors from 60 to 40. That would mean the number of Saddleworth representatives on the authority would be cut from nine to six, with two councillors sitting for each ward instead of the current three.
The council has put the idea forward in an attempt to save money. It has estimated the changes would lead to an annual saving of £280,000 on allowances and expenses, plus an extra £75,000 for having elections less often.
Under the administration’s proposals, council elections would be held every two years, and instead of the existing system of elections in three years out of every four. The changes would take effect from 2012. Having found £41m of savings from its budget for 2011/12, the council must identify a further £24m for 2012/13.
The council has the power to reduce the number of members, but it would need the backing of two-thirds of all councillors plus approval from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles before it would be able to change its electoral cycle.
In a statement ahead of today’s meeting, council leader Cllr Howard Sykes said the idea came from the public consultation held over the coming year’s budget savings.
He commented: “Citizens were crystal clear in telling us that in order to protect frontline services no aspect of council business should be exempt from possible savings. That includes looking at the amount of public money spent on councillors, and we have heard that message.”
He continued: “At a time when local government has to make big changes and savings – including redundancies – councillors must not be immune from that process and we have a duty to share the pain. These proposed reductions also reflect the future direction of Oldham Council as being more of a commissioner – rather than a direct provider – of local services.”
The leader of opposition Labour group, Cllr Jim McMahon, has dismissed the idea as a “sham.” He said today: “Cllr Sykes said he was responding to the reaction of the public, but he is clearly selective.”
He continued: “Most members of the public would see officer pay cut, but he has refused. Most people would also like the current administration to be put in stocks on the High Street, but I suspect he’ll pass on that one too.”
Cllr McMahon’s statement went on: “Appealing to public cynicism of politics is cheap and democracy should not be bought and sold. If Cllr Sykes wanted to show we are all in this together he would back our suggestion to cut all allowances.”
A public consultation is now being held on the plans, and you can take part by submitting your views via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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