More councillors plan row

OPPOSITION leaders in the county have hit out at the possibility of up to £100,000 a year being spent on ten new councillors.As well as upping council tax by 18.

OPPOSITION leaders in the county have hit out at the possibility of up to £100,000 a year being spent on ten new councillors.

As well as upping council tax by 18.5 per cent a proposal to up the number of county councillors from 80 to 90 was approved by a narrow margin at a full council meeting yesterday.

But some county councillors felt the process was undemocratic as parishes around the area had not been given chance to consult about the numbers.

They had been given chance to consult about having 75, 80 or 85 members but 48 hours before the meeting an amendment was made to change it to 90.

Veronica Read, Suffolk Coastal District Councillor said she was appalled by the way it was handled: "We have been consulted upon something which was not going to be recommended and that is undemocratic.

"They are supposed to be reaching down to grass roots level and they are not adhering to that."

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Councillor Richard Harsant was also disgusted by the amendment.

He said: "It is ludicrous to think that you consult with all the parish councils over the figures then all of a sudden they come up with proposals for 90 and that is it."

The plans will now be forwarded to the Boundary Committee for England who will now decide whether to give them the go-ahead as part of the review.

Liberal Democrat councillor Inga Lockington said that the new councillors would be needed for more outlying areas that have seen huge growth in the last 20 years such as Pinewood and Kesgrave areas.

She said: "In some rural areas district councillors have to cover around 28 parishes.

"If you take it proportionally there were more councillors 20 years ago because there were not as many people living in Suffolk."

She added that she would be happy to have more councillors but to see her allowance drop.

Liberal Democrat leader Peter Monk insisted that a larger council is vital to better serve the electorate, which is predicted to top 549,000 by 2007 – an increase of around 146,000 since 1974.

"Unfortunately, democracy costs money. People can't have it both ways – you cannot have adequate representation without it actually costing money.

Council leader Jane Hore said: "It is a purely statistical decision – we are not looking at the financial effects of it, but it will cost money.

"It will be more out of my taxes, because I pay them as well. However, how far can you stretch one councillor over many thousands of electorate?".

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