Reaction to boundary plans

COUNCILLORS have given a mixed response to proposals to slash the number of councillors by 14 and re-draw boundaries.

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has recommended the number of councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council be slashed from 47 to 33, representing 11 wards instead of the current 17.

Their proposals would see three councillors in each ward across town, as reported by the Mail.

Some councillors have welcomed the move to save money, while others say the proposals are “unsound”.

Meanwhile, councillors representing villages such as Hart and Elwick, which would be included in larger urban wards, fear it would harm their “rural identity”.

Residents are being urged to have their say on the number of councillors, ward sizes and ward names during a 12-week consultation.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Arthur Preece, said: “I still think that the proposals are unsound. These enormous wards are out of scale with the communities in Hartlepool.”

He added that the number of councillors proposed to be cut was too many.

Councillor Chris Simmons, leader of the Labour group, said: “As with all changes to local government, there will be winners and losers.

“There will be some that are badly affected and others that are in favour of the new wards.

“Although there will be changes to boundaries on the map, the communities will stay together.”

Councillor Ray Wells, speaking on behalf of the Conservative group, said: “We totally support the decision to reduce or make savings, however we would still question whether there will be any direct savings in the reduction of councillors.”

He added that he was “delighted” that the commission had taken on board the majority of recommendations from a council working group and moved to reassure residents in the rural areas that they would be well represented by three member wards.

But independent councillor Hilary Thompson, who represents the Elwick ward, said “lumping” the villages with a large urban ward will lead to them losing their rural identity.

Coun Thompson said: “There is an insistence from the commission to have three councillors per ward, despite them stating that communities are more important than numbers.

“To have three in the rural area requires the artificial addition of a large part of the town in contradiction of one of the commission’s guidelines ‘that the boundaries should reflect the natural communities of Hartlepool’.”