Cost of democracy – budget conversation feedback

English core cities – electors per councillorAnother of the most popular topics amongst users in the first three weeks of the Bristol Budget Conversation has been the costs of having 70 Councillors, and of holding elections one-third at a time, spread over three years out of every four.

In general, people who have commented have suggested that we could make do with fewer elected Councillors – there are currently two are elected for each of the 35 wards that make up the City.  Each Councillor is eligible for an allowance of around £11,000 a year, with some like the Leader receiving additional special responsibility allowances, to reflect their additional workload and responsibilities.

Some people have suggested that we have just one Councillor elected for each ward.  Others have suggested that each ward should cover a larger area, thus needing fewer overall.  Some people have suggested that we have all-out elections every four years, to reduce the costs of opening polling stations each May to elect a third of the total number at a time.  Others have suggested that the amount of allowances paid to Councillors should be reduced.

Each of these options (or any combination of all four) would save some money, at least in the long-term.  There would though also be a downside to each.  If there were fewer Councillors, then each one would find it harder to represent their local residents.  If elections were all held together every four years, then local people would have to wait longer to be able to influence who controls the Council if they didn’t like decisions being taken in the meantime.

The Council did debate just within the last year whether to move towards having all out elections every four years, and decided on balance not to.

To help you consider these issues, we have produced a data sheet for you to see how many citizens per councillor there are in other English cities

What do you think on these important issues?

3 thoughts on “Cost of democracy – budget conversation feedback

  1. You could hold elections every 4 years, and get round the ‘unable to get rid of them’ thing by having a ‘recall’ system. (ie a method of getting rid of councillors….)

  2. I’m not sure that seeing how any citizens per councillors in other cities is all that helpful. Do we need two per ward? I think no we don’t. I also think Cabinet members are paid too much, it is supposed to be voluntary, not salaried. I also agree that running elections on thirds is a complete waste of money. It should be 100% of wards electing every 4 years, that way there is a chance for real change.

  3. We must stop these farcical part elections.
    Of course the councillors like them – this system reduces the amount of effective work that they need to do!
    At present with elections every year in 3 out of 4 years there is little clear leadership on any multi department issue because every year there is the risk of a new head of department.
    There is 3 months of playing it safe before the election and 3 months of settling in when a new head is elected
    So any project that involves more than one department and takes more than 6 months is doomed. That rules out almost any major project!

    Is that why our schools are so bad, our roads are so congested and our pavements are blocked with piles of rubbish and bins?


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