The Local Government Boundary Commission is undertaking a review of boroughs across London. The first stage before considering the area of the wards themselves is to decide on the number of councillors in total which will represent the borough. The LibDem administration proposes the number remains at the current level of 54 and refuses even to consider the Conservative Group's recommendation of a reduction of 9 – which would bring the number to 45 councillors in total.
Advances in technology, partnership working and the transfer of housing stock to Richmond Housing Partnership are just a few of the changes that have taken place since the last review in 1999. Nowadays the majority of exchanges between councillors and residents are by email and an increasing number of people are using the website and social media to report issues direct. Of course face to face meetings, surgeries, working with local groups and attending local events remain an important part of councillors relationships with their residents and businesses. But compared to other London boroughs Richmond has one of the most generous ratios of councillors to electors. Richmond has 2,580 electors for every councillor, compared to a range from 4,092 in Barnet to 2,437 in Kingston. A reduction to 45 councillors (assuming population growth to 147,069) would leave each councillor representing 3,268, electors with plenty of capacity to maintain the efficient running of the Council.
Leader of the opposition Cllr Paul Hodgins pointed out that everyone has had to face hard choices in recent years and adapt to new ways of working. "The Council is no exception and we have a much slimmer workforce and shared staff and service arrangements with other local local authorities".
"This year as well as the maximum 4.99% increase in Council tax residents face a massive 8.93% precept from the London Mayor, making an overall increase of 5.67%. Along with higher charges, including parking, this will be difficult for some people to manage. Our Conservative group believes, as we did when we were running the Council, that we have to scrutinise every aspect of Council spending to try to keep taxes as low as possible for our residents. Councillors should take their share of the burden, just as we have asked residents and staff to do. I was astonished by the outright refusal at Tuesday's Budget Council by the LibDem Leader to consider the savings that could benefit our residents from a reduction in councillor numbers. The Conservative Group will be submitting a proposal to the Local Government Boundary Commission demonstrating that 45 dedicated Councillors will be able to offer our residents a high level of service and provide more than adequate representation to ensure efficient running of the Council".