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Fury over move to cut councillor numbers

PUBLISHED: 15:38 26 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 March 2010

COUNCILLORS in Felixstowe have slammed controversial moves to cut their numbers and will fight the boundary commission's plan to the bitter end.

They are embroiled in a furious row with government officials who claim the seaside town is over-represented.

COUNCILLORS in Felixstowe have slammed controversial moves to cut their numbers and will fight the boundary commission's plan to the bitter end.

They are embroiled in a furious row with government officials who claim the seaside town is over-represented.

Labour and Conservative councillors fear if there are less of them it will make their fight for the rights of the resort even harder.

They have now agreed to make a strong protest to Secretary of State for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Stephen Byers, to ask him to veto at the 11th hour the scheme put forward by The Local Government Commission for England.

The commission wants to cut the number of district councillors in Felixstowe from 12 to 11, and the number of town councillors from 18 to 17.

One of the absurd outcomes will be that the town has five wards instead of six, one of which will elect five councillors.

But town councillors say the resort's population has been miscalculated and the changes – if they proceed – will leave it under-represented.

They are also angry that the commission says it takes account of local views which are in a better position to judge what size of council and how many wards are needed, but has totally ignored views put forward from Felixstowe.

Councillor David Smith, vice chairman of the finance and general purposes committee, said: "The commission's report is a dreadful bit of work, very disappointing, and by far the worse bit of government-in-action I have seen.

"They have shown massive disregard for what we had to say. We put an awful lot of work into our submission and they ignored it completely.

"This smacks of institutionalised arrogance, and we should make our views known in the strongest terms."

Councillor Dennis Carpenter said the recommendations for the town were ludicrous, and deputy mayor Malcolm Minns was disgusted and branded it a "disgraceful exercise".

The commission said it has looked at population forecasts for the seaside town and it currently only merited 11.5 councillors and in five years' time 11.2.

"Therefore, the district council's proposal would result in an over-representation in Felixstowe, an area which is unlikely to experience any significant growth in electorate in the near future," said the commission.

"We continue to believe that our warding arrangements for Felixstowe provide the best balance between electoral equality and the statutory criteria."

The town council is being supported by Suffolk Coastal, which is also writing to Mr Byers to express its disappointment that final recommendations have failed to take on board the wishes and needs of the local community.

"Unfortunately, this whole exercise has in the end become too much of a mathematical exercise and is recommending changes which virtually ignore the views of the local area," said Ray Herring, chairman of the policy and resources committee and leader of the council.

"In Felixstowe's case, the proposals from the town council and this council have been completely rejected with no explanation at all."

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