While the saga of long term absences of some highest paid elected members trundles along, at ongoing unacceptable costs to council tax payers, including the £800 paid to a QC, we should remember the case made publicly by the Labour Group on 22 October 2018 for cuts in councillor numbers.
“At the 2018 meeting of West Lancashire Borough Council referred to, Cllr Adam Yates of Ormskirk’s Knowsley Ward moved a motion to reduce the number of elected members.[Cllr Yates is Portfolio Holder for Resources & Transformation and Chairs the Flooding & Drainage Cabinet Working Group]
“West Lancashire Borough Council has recently begun a full organisational review, in order to ensure that the council remains sustainable in the face of further austerity cuts to council funds by the Conservative Government. The motion to review councillor numbers, which was seconded by Cllr Yates’s fellow Knowsley Ward councillor, Cllr Gareth Dowling, is in response to this review, as the restructure could allow for a change in the role of a councillor and therefore the number of members needed.
“Cllr Yates, Portfolio Holder for Transformation and Resources
said “The council faces a very difficult future, due to the ongoing government cuts which will see our funding revenues continue to fall until at least 2020. Although the council is well run, and offers good value for money in its delivery of services, we have been left with no option but to look at a wholesale restructuring of the organisation if we wish to maintain the current levels of service in future years.
“The Sustainable Organisational Review Project (SORP) will help to deliver better customer service, as well as looking at ways to generate additional income for the council, through a potentially radical change in the organisational structure and services.
“It is therefore only appropriate that we also take this opportunity to look at the role of councillors, and the number required to provide sufficient support for residents. We hear repeated calls from opposition councillors to cut the basic councillor allowances, yet all this would achieve is to limit the type of people who could afford to take on what is often a very demanding civic responsibility.
“Cuts to allowances would mean that people who can bring different and valuable experience to the council would find themselves excluded because they simply can’t afford to be councillors (especially now that Universal Credit measures are taking effect). This Labour administration has a strong track record of looking to offer value to residents, having previously ended the free bar for councillors
which was enjoyed by the Conservatives under the Finance Portfolio of Cllr Adrian Owens, and having continuously frozen allowances since we took control, including for the next two years.
“It makes far more sense to look at the overall number of councillors we need, which is why I have called for the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to be contacted. We hope to get the ball rolling ahead of the SORP report, due to come to Council in July 2019, which will give us a much clearer idea of how the council can be restructured to provide the best value and quality of service to all residents”.
We had the “two councils two seats two allowances for Cllr Moon saga, and now we have the elected member absences saga. The QC fee of £800 was to tell council that “the statute does not, at least in its terms, allow a retrospective dispensation to be granted, and the point I have noted in para 13 above, it would be advisable for any decision on dispensation to be taken on 15th April 2020, if at all possible” for an absence weeks earlier.
What part of “Although the council is well run, and offers good value for money in its delivery of services” applies to non attendance and no delivery of the services by elected members of Ashurst and Aughton & Downholland?