Reduction in Knaresborough and Ripon Council sizes challenged
A proposed reduction in the size ofÂ Knaresborough and Ripon councilsÂ has been called into question over the impact it could have on their performance.
Both areas could see the number of councillors reduced to 12, spread across four wards, under the proposals put forward in a Community Governance Review. It will go for final approval before a meeting of Harrogate Borough Council on Wednesday December 13.
It follows an electoral review for the district by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England which saw changes to the district ward boundaries which now have to be matched on a parish level. However both Knaresborough Town and Ripon City Councillors have raised concerns over what a shift from 15 councillors could have. Members of the Liberal Democrat party in Knaresborough, including Coun Christine Willoughby, plan to put forward an amendment to challenge it.
Coun Willoughby said:"We feel that there should in fact be more councillors serving on the Town Council not less, this could end up seriously costing the town more. While we do have to change something due to the district changes what is being proposed isn't enough. We want to be able to do things for the community and are a group of unpaid people volunteering for our town."
She added: "While it is to be ratified we have an amendment going forward that asks for the council to look at what numbers are available to other towns, it would put us on a level with a settlement the size of say Pateley Bridge. We are a big town and have a lot of housing proposed in the area so we are going to get bigger.
"This would be taking away our capacity to deliver, the Government is allowing us to continue collecting our precepts and provide services but we would instead be doing this with fewer people."
Under the new arrangement Knaresborough would contain the wards of Scriven Park, Eastfield, Aspon and Calcutt along with Knaresborough Castle. Currently 15 councillors serve across three wards, meaning three fewer representatives overall.
In Ripon the proposed wards of Spa, Ure Bank, Minster and Moorside could cause problems according to Coun Sid Hawke, who said the work load is already difficult with the current numbers.
Coun Hawke said: "I am totally against this, we are regularly working through the night at Ripon City Council meetings, 7 to 10pm, and we can't go on with a workload with those numbers.
He added:"I just cannot see the logic in this, we aren't even paid and we do lots for the community. I myself am barely off the phone talking people over issues even before we come to meetings."
A public consultation on the potential changes was held earlier in the year. with 61 people participating in Ripon and 98 in Knaresborough. Following this members of the General Purposes Committee on November 8 voted to recommend the changes in Knaresborough, with eight to one in favour, and Ripon at seven to two.