Numbers game does not add up say councillors

The commission has recommended the number of seats in the municipal buildings be reduced
The commission has recommended the number of seats in the municipal buildings be reduced

Proposals to cut the number of councillors representing Falkirk district have been challenged by elected members and town hall bosses.

A nationwide shake-up has been recommended by watchdogs, The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland, after a two-year review of electoral arrangements.

It says the country can operate with 1219 councillors representing 351 wards in 32 council areas – an overall drop of four councillors and two wards compared with now.

Under the plan Falkirk would lose two councillors, one in Grangemouth and one in Falkirk South, creating six wards of three and three of four elected members.

But the recommendations now with Scottish Ministers for a final decision have not been welcomed in the Municipal Buildings.

Yesterday (Wednesday) it confirmed its May 2015 decision to reject the commission’s 30-member scheme stands and confirmed chief executive Mary Pitcaithly has the authority to seek a judicial review of the decision if it would be in the best interests of the council.

In Grangemouth, sitting Labour Councillor Allyson Black argued for the ‘status quo’.

She said: “I’m disappointed the commission opted to recommend the cut. Considering the size of Grangemouth, the amount of industry, a growing older population and high percentage of social housing stock I think this reduction is short sighted.

“At a time the council has had such a significant loss of government funding, I find I’m working more and more with local community groups who need help keeping their organisations going. The need to work with and help people in these times of economic uncertainty is already a great responsibility for the four members of the council elected by the constituents.”

Her Labour colleague Baillie Joan Paterson said: “I would be very disappointed if the Scottish Government accepted the commissions recommendations. It seems to me to be non-sensical to review numbers of councillors on the basis of deprivation, then cut the number representing Grangemouth.”

Independent Councillor Robert Spears claimed: “There is no enthusiasm across all political parties within Falkirk Council for the change. To identify a potential growth in population of 10,000 for the council area and meet that with a cut of two councillors seems the wrong course of travel.”

Colin Chalmers, SNP councillor for Falkirk South, said: “I find the recommendations from the boundary commission shambolic. Local community ties and continuity of representation has been thrown out the window.”

Labour’s Dennis Goldie said: “This is taking ‘local’ out of local government and another blow to the determination of all the councillors elected to represent this ward. It would be very disappointing to lose one councillor from here and Grangemouth.”

If accepted, the changes could be in place ahead of the 2017 town halls elections, but no decision has been taken - yet.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers will consider carefully the recommendations and decide in due course whether to implement those recommendations and the timing of any changes.”