Council objects to plan to cut councillors

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A public consultation is under way on a proposed shake-up of local government across Argyll and Bute.

The number of councillors, wards, ward boundaries and their names remains under the microscope of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.

The Edinburgh-based commission started the process in 2019 and is proposing a number of changes in a public consultation which runs until January 26 next year.

Changes locally include Oban being placed into a single ward of its own and represented by four councillors.

That would be a departure from the current ward split of Oban North and Lorn, and Oban South and Isles, which is represented by eight councillors.

However, two ‘island-only’ wards served by two councillors each would be created for Islay, Jura and Colonsay; and Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree.

The boundary commission said it would ‘better reflect local ties for island communities’ and their ‘special geographic circumstances’.

Argyll and Bute Council is currently represented by 36 councillors across 11 wards.

The commission suggests reducing the number of councillors to 34 and the increasing the wards to 12.

The 11 current wards are Cowal, Dunoon, Helensburgh and Lomond South, Helensburgh Central, Isle of Bute, Kintyre and the Islands, Lomond North, Mid Argyll, Oban North & Lorn, Oban South and The Isles, and South Kintyre.

Under the proposed new system, there would be 12 wards – Kintyre; Islay, Jura and Colonsay; Mid Argyll; Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree; Oban, Lorn, Cowal, Dunoon, Isle of Bute, Lomond North, Helensburgh Central, Helensburgh and Lomond South.

Argyll and Bute Council officials have tabled a three page response.

It is ‘disappointed’ that a reduction in councillors is on the cards and said the island ward proposals had raised a number of concerns about ‘electoral parity’.

Douglas Hendry, executive director, wrote: ‘The council rejects any reduction in the overall number of councillors for Argyll and Bute.’

The boundary commission said population changes is one of the main reasons for the review.

Argyll and Bute’s electorate is expected to shrink from 66,725 in 2018 to 65,834 by 2024 – amounting to nearly 900 fewer voters.

‘The population, and therefore the electorate, of any local authority area is constantly changing, with people moving into or out of areas as well as within the same area,’ said the commission.

‘As a result of these changes, some councillors may come to represent considerably more, or fewer, electors than other councillors in the same council area.

‘It is our responsibility in our reviews to make recommendations that ensure that each councillor represents as nearly as possible the same number of electors.’

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 also requires the commission to review the six councils in Scotland which contain inhabited islands, including Argyll and Bute.

A series of recommendations will eventually be made to the Scottish Parliament which would then give either the final yes or no.

For more information visit: https://consult.lgbc-scotland.gov.uk/reviews/argyll_and_bute_council_area_public_consultation/ 

To take part in the consultation, visit https://consult.lgbc-scotland.gov.uk/reviews/argyll_and_bute_council_area_public_consultation/consultation/

How the shake-up might look