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New councillors move slammed

PUBLISHED: 13:06 16 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 March 2010

CONTROVERSIAL plans to add ten new councillors to Suffolk County Council have been questioned by the leader of a neighbouring authority – which is preparing to shed members.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to add ten new councillors to Suffolk County Council have been questioned by the leader of a neighbouring authority – which is preparing to shed members.

Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, revealed that the authority is proposing to drop four councillors from its current total of 79.

He criticised Suffolk County Council which, having already raised council tax by 18.5%, is now planning to increase the number of its councillors from 80 to 90 by 2005.

The plans are currently being considered by the Boundary Commission and, if approved, would see Suffolk boast the most county councillors in the country – despite having just half the population of Essex.

Lord Hanningfield said: "We feel it's very important that all our members have a fulfilling role. If you have too many councillors then it's hard work to find them all jobs to do.

"We have never seen the need to have any more members. It's up to Suffolk to decide what to do, but certainly it does seem an unnecessary cost."

The Labour and Liberal Democrat proposal, which was put forward last week, has been defended by both parties as vital to ensure better representation of the county's ever-growing electorate.

But Conservative councillor Sue Sida-Lockett said: "We are quite generous already in terms of numbers of councillors to electorate, so to look at having ten more is absolutely ridiculous.

"I think people need to understand that this decision is completely off the wall – it just does not seem to be justified at all.

"We can all only hope the Boundary Commission will reject the proposal. How this decision can be described as supporting the delivery of better local services and improved democracy needs the skills of the Iraqi Head of Communications."

Liberal Democrat leader Peter Monk argued that figures showing the number of councillors to electorate are misleading, because each county has its own 'peculiarities'.

He said that the proposal was worked out using Boundary Commission guidelines, which stipulated that one councillor should serve around 6,000 members of the public.

"The important thing about this is that it's about representation and not political advantage," Cllr Monk added.

"We are looking at what's best for Suffolk – we have made our proposal, and now it's for the Boundary Commission to decide."


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