Cuts won’t just hit Falkirk’s councillors

Camelon will lose a councillor if boundary changes go ahead
Camelon will lose a councillor if boundary changes go ahead

Councillors are ready to fight to protect their communities in the face of plans to cut the number of members elected to the town hall.

Changes to voting arrangements in 2017 have been proposed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.

They would see two of the council’s nine wards being reduced in size and the number of elected members trimmed from 32 to 30.

Under the ‘new look’ Falkirk Council:

n Camelon will be taken out of Ward 7 Falkirk South and moved to Ward 6 Falkirk North, reducing the number of councillors in Ward 7 from four to three.

n The town centre and Callendar Park areas will switch the other way from Ward 6 to Ward 7.

n Skinflats and its surrounding rural area will be dropped from Ward 2 Grangemouth and added to Ward 4 Carse Kinnaird and Tryst, reducing the number of councillors in Ward 2 from four to three.

The changes have sparked a storm, but the commission, which boasts it is an independent and non-political body, is arguing they are in the “interests of effective and convenient local government.”

Across Scotland its proposals would see 1217 councillors representing 351 wards - down six councillors and two wards from the electoral arrangements in place today.

Falkirk Council is just one of the 32 local authorities to make it clear it does not agree with the way the ‘numbers have been crunched’.

At a special meeting of the full council last week they were told by their chief executive that the new boundary maps produced by the commission had been drawn up without any input at all from council officers.

Mary Pitcaithly also said its arguments to protect the status quo had already been rejected - and pointed out that since the commission first started consultation with councils in 2011 on the proposed methodology to be used to establish a new framework it has ‘moved the goalposts’.

The chief executive said the council was entitled to ask if the commission had fulfilled its remit to the letter - particularly in light of its decision in early 2014 to switch from looking only at density and distribution of population, as it had consistently done previously, to switch focus to council areas based on deprivation and population distribution for the first time.

For Falkirk this has produced a controversial ratio of one councillor for every 3800 electors, up from 3500, and leading to the reduced allocation of 30.

Mrs Pitcaithly told councillors: “This departure has been challenged by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, but the commission’s position remains unchanged.”

The chief executive has been authorised to write to the commission with Falkirk’s concerns and investigate the possibility of taking the issue to a judicial review.

Provost Pat Reid said: “The criteria set out by the commission is nonsense because it does not end up putting more elected members into the most deprived areas where they are most needed to help with key issues like health and unemployment. It is essential the needs of all our communities are properly represented.”