Much will be said about the Conservative plans for Calderdale and Kirklees to be run from Huddersfield, but I want to concentrate on just one aspect, the reduction in democracy.
Calderdale currently has 51 councillors in 17 wards. This means each councillor represents a ward with on average 8800 electors. Under the Conservative proposals each councillor would represent wards of upwards of 12,500 electors. In addition the geographical size of the wards would be extremely large, especially outside Halifax centre. For example a ward stretching from the boundary of Oldham beyond Rishworth into the centre of Sowerby Bridge or from the Rochdale boundary in Walsden to the centre of Hebden Bridge.
I have been a Calderdale councillor for a geographically large ward, Calder. It is extremely difficult to keep in touch with over 8000 electors in some 4600 houses in a ward bigger in size than many towns. I have also fought elections in Leeds with electorates of 15,000 -20,000. I can tell you that the wards there are far too big for councillors to know more than a handful of people and the feeling of remoteness is huge with turnouts below 20% in many parts of the city. Is that what the Conservatives want for Calderdale? People already claim that councillors are remote when there are 51 of them. It will be much worse when there are just 36, as the Conservatives propose.
What is the great prize the Conservatives hope to gain by this reduction in democracy? A saving in cost of less than £170,000 in a budget of just shy of £180 million or 0.1% of the council’s spending. This would reduce annual council tax by around £2.71 for a band D household or 5p a week.
Can I suggest that democracy and proper representation is cheap at the price.
These Conservative proposals far from enhancing democracy are anti-democratic and will make councillors job of overseeing the work of the council’s officers and representing the people even more difficult. They should be rejected.
Dr Michael Taylor