Two member divisions could be scrapped at East Sussex County Council

LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001
LEWES. County Hall SUS-150522-151022001

Two member divisions could be scrapped at East Sussex County Council under new proposals.

The number of councillors and division boundaries in the county are subject to a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE).

According to a ESCC report due to be discussed next Tuesday July 14 the county council is being asked to recommend to the LGBCE that the five two member wards be eliminated, but the number of councillors remain the same at 49.

The current divisions represented by two councillors in East Sussex are Bexhill King Offa; Crowborough; Hailsham and Herstmonceux, Peacehaven and Telscombe Towns; and Polegate, Willingdon and East Dean.

Conservative Bill Bentley, who represents Hailsham and Herstmonceux along with UKIP’s Laurence Keeley, said he supported plans to abolish two member divisions and have smaller one member divisions ensuring councillors could ‘provide a local focus to local needs’.

He explained that having larger geographical areas made it ‘more difficult to provide a focused representation for residents’.

He added: “Rural and urban views are often different and sometimes these view compete or conflict so mixing communities in this way is not helpful.

“An example is that residents in Ninfield and Hooe have stronger links to Bexhill and Battle than they do to Hailsham.

“These and other villages and hamlets are not named in the division title and understandably residents struggle to know who represents them when they have need to contact their county councillor. Residents living on the borders of Bexhill are surprised to be linked with Hailsham (a town nearly 15 miles distant and a 35 to 40 minute drive).”

Philip Howson, one of the two UKIP councillors for Peacehaven and Telscombe Towns, said “UKIP are not worried about this as members will not be cut, it will stay at 49 members, and may increase to 50 under certain conditions. The boundaries may be altered later if the boundary commission see fit.”

The report reads: “County councillors have highlighted strong concerns and challenges in managing in the two member divisions.

“Particular problems have occurred in case load management in two member divisions with casework being unfairly distributed and confusion with liaison with parish/town councils.

“We consider that the boundary review should seek to eliminate two member divisions whilst retaining the same total number of county councillors.”

Of the five divisions one is represented by two Conservatives, one by two UKIP councillors, two have both a UKIP and Conservative representative, and one has two Independent Democrats.

Other recommendations in the report include keeping the size of the council the same, ensuring county electoral divisions do not cut across district or borough boundaries, and if the size of the council does need to be changed councillors should not be removed from Hastings and or Rother.

This is due to the fact that councillors in Hastings have reported ‘relatively high caseload levels that are of significant complexity’.

Until 1997 the county council had 70 councillors, which became 44 when Brighton and Hove became a unitary authority. Then the size of the council increased to 49 following a boundary review in 2003.

Any changes would come into effect at the next county council elections in May 2017.

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