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Accusation over all-out Craven District Council elections
10:00am Friday 10th August 2012 in News
Possible changes to Craven District Council elections are to be thrashed out by the authority’s scrutiny committee.
A move to all-out elections every four years was rejected earlier this month by the council’s policy committee.
But now it is to get another airing in front of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
The decision has been criticised by some councillors who see it as an abuse of the democratic decision.
Council leader Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons), a supporter of all-out elections, has accused policy committee councillors, who voted against the proposals to at least consult on electoral changes, as acting in “self-interest”.
And at last week’s full council meeting he said the overview and scrutiny committee would now consider all-out elections and make a recommendation to the policy committee.
But Coun Mark Wheeler (Lib Dem) criticised the leader as ignoring the democratic process.
He also suggested that a cut in members’ allowances could make up the suggested saving of all-out elections.
“It is disappointing that the leader chose to ignore the accepted democratic process and move on after a vote is lost,” said Coun Wheeler. “It seems that the leader attempting to bring back the recommendation until we reach his point of view of what is the right decision is an abuse of the democratic process.”
Coun Wheeler suggested that by reducing some allowances paid to councillors and scrapping others, the council could match the predicted £20,000 saving of moving to all-out elections.
He said a five per cent reduction in basic member allowance would save £6,500 and a reduction in the leader’s allowance to £4,000 would save a further £3,500.
Another £2,000 could be saved by reducing the deputy leader’s allowance to £2,000, and £4,400 by cutting each of the committee chairmen’s allowances to £1,000.
He said ending allowances for committee vice-chairmen would save £1,600, reducing the group leaders’ allowance to £500 would result in a further saving of £700, and reducing the council chairman’s allowance to £2,000 would save £1,400.
“This would not only cover the amount required, but it would also show council staff that members are also prepared to share the pain of council cuts without tinkering with an electoral system that isn’t faulty,” said Coun Wheeler.
The current system, which has been in place since local government reorganisation in the 1970s, sees elections three years out of four, with a third of all councillors standing for election.
A move to all-out elections would save the council at least £20,000 and would allow the council to make greater long term planning, it is claimed.