Plans to slash city council numbers

Photo David Hurst'Deputy Leader Counc Eric Fazackerley with the 'unlisted' Preston Bus Station
Photo David Hurst'Deputy Leader Counc Eric Fazackerley with the 'unlisted' Preston Bus Station
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Plans to reduce the number of Preston politicians by nearly a third are to be debated by Town Hall bosses.

The Liberal Democrat group on the city’s council has confirmed it will put forward plans to cut the number of councillors from 57 to just 40 in a bid to cut costs.

They claim it will save the authority £179,000 every four years by scrapping one of its elections and around £60,000 a year in cash allowances paid out to members.

Coun John Potter, the Liberal Democrats’ finance spokesman, said the group would be putting forward the proposal as part of a package of cuts due to be announced in the council’s budget next year.

He said: “The role of the council has changed a lot since the decision was taken to create that number of councillors.

“We no longer look after housing, for example, which was a bit part of the council’s remit and we believe we can cut a cost here without impacting on the level of democracy people have in Preston.

“It is not just 57 city councillors we have, there are 10 members of Lancashire County Council in Preston as well.

“Councillors cannot be exempt from cuts.”

He said the proposal would be to reduce the number of councillors in wards where there are three representatives to just two and change ward boundaries.

Eric Fazackerley, deputy leader of the Conservative group, said he would support the proposals for the reduction which he has put forward to councillors in the past.

But he said there were members of his group who may not support the move.

Coun Fazackerley said: “If it came to it, I would certainly look to persuade my fellow members to support it.

“It would have an up-front cost with regards consulting over the changes but in the long-term I believe it would save money and it is something I have long championed.”

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, the cabinet member for resources on the authority’s Labour-led cabinet, said there was potential for the reduction to increase costs.

He warned the Government could look to reduce the grant handed to the council if it considered it to have less councillors to pay or the independent panel which sets councillors’ expenses could look to raise the levels.

Coun Rawlinson said: “The Government is not daft, if it sees us reducing the number of councillors by nearly a third, they will simply cut the grant we receive.

“If that were to happen or the independent panel which sets councillors expenses levels were to give us an increase, we could actually end up spending more.

“There are so many unknowns.”