Richmondshire councillors vote for reduction in councillors

The proposed new Richmondshire ward boundaries.

Members of Richmondshire District Council have voted in favour of changing from 34 councillors to 24 single councillor wards.

The authority says it will allow for better administration by councillors and make it clearer for residents to know who their elected representative is.

Earlier this year councillors asked the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) to look at proposals to reduce the number of councillors from 34 to 24 – as part of an on-going drive to improve efficiency within the authority.

They said the authority is oversized and could easily operate and function with a 29% reduction in members – but still provide the right representation for the district’s residents.

The commission indicated in June that it was ‘minded’ to approve the reduction and has since been undertaking consultation exercises with local bodies and residents to seek views – and possible new structures – before making a final decision.

“Since then a member working group has been looking at the ward boundaries,” said Council Leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock.

“We believe our 24 single wards reflects equality in representation, community interest and identity and provides effective local government. We hope the boundary commission will also see that and adopt our solution.”

The district council wants to see 24 single member wards of: Swaledale and Arkengarthdale; Yoredale; Leyburn West; Leyburn East; Coverdale and Middleham; Lower Wensleydale; Catterick Village; Brough; Colburn East; Colburn West; Scotton; Hipswell East; Hipswell West; Brompton on Swale; Scorton; Barton; Melsonby and Middleton Tyas; Richmond North; Richmond East; Richmond South; Richmond Central; Richmond West and Lower Swaledale; and Newsham and Eppleby.

Hawes councillor John Blackie has submitted alternative plans for the shake up.

In contrast to the council’s submission, Cllr Blackie believes Muker, Gunnerside and Low Row should be included in a Hawes, High Abbotside and Upper Swaledale ward, and Bainbridge included in the Yoredale ward.

Other changes suggested by Cllr Blackie would see Downholme and Hundswell included in the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale wards, rather that in Richmond West.

He also says Preston and Wensley should be included in a Bolton Castle ward rather than as part of one of two Leyburn wards.

He said in his submission that the various councillors who had been elected to serve the current five or six wards covering the Upper Dales wards had been able to speak solely on key issues and concerns affecting these “deeply rural parishes”.

The LGBCE will publish draft recommendations for further consultation on October 31 with a final decision on the new structure expected in April next year  with changes effective from local elections in May 2019.