A CALL has been made to slash the number of councillors serving on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in a bid to save cash.
Henry Jebb, the Liberal Democrat group leader on the authority who represents the Brown Edge and Endon Ward, said cutting the number of elected members would deliver savings in the long term.
However, the authority’s leader has claimed that reducing the number of councillors by 10 would save up to just £29,000 a year, while the overall cost of altering ward boundaries would come in at £130,000.
The district council is presently represented by 56 members.
Figures released earlier this year showed that £257,619.88 was paid to councillors during the last financial year.
This includes a basic of £2,901.96 to each member.
This figure then rises as additional amounts are paid for those councillors with special responsibility allowances, such as cabinet members and chairmen of committees, along with travelling expenses.
In a written question at a full meeting of the district council, Mr Jebb said: “Eighteen months ago I asked the council to start the process which would lead to a reduction in the number of councillors serving on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
“This was not supported by the leader, other group leaders and the council generally at that time.
“Does the leader think 56 members is the right number of councillors for our district?” But council leader Sybil Ralphs said that it would be an extensive project with a high cost.
Councillor Ralphs said: “We have had a working group looking into this which has concluded it would cost £130,000.
“There is a lack of resources to take on what would be an extensive project. We cannot afford it.
“The money would mean a few jobs could be at risk as we have to look at all spending.
“Last year there was a project that looked at Parliamentary electoral boundaries that cost tens of thousands of pounds. It was the Liberal Democrats which stopped that.
“It was a waste of money and I would not like to see the district council waste money.”
Mr Jebb pointed to a recent meeting of the full council, which lasted just 11 minutes – despite the cost of members’ travelling bills, lighting the council chamber and officers’ time.
He said: “Staff jobs have been on the line when we are doing nothing to reduce the number of councillors in the chamber. This idea would save money in the long term.
"If the public saw the last full council agenda they would be asking why are we having these meetings, which cost money.”
Ms Ralphs added: “If we reduced the number of councillors by 10 it would save around £28,000 to £29,000 a year. It would take a long time to recoup £130,000.” Members of the public were today split over the idea.
Leek resident Rebecca Steele, aged 49, told the Post & Times: “If it means cutting costs, then fine, but I can’t see it making much difference overall.”
But Cheadle resident John Parton, aged 51, said: “I think it would be a good idea to reduce the number of councillors.
“It’s what Parliament has been looking to do with MPs – so why can't we do it in local government.”