PLANS to reshape Wyre Forest District Council by cutting the number of wards from 17 to 11 has sparked fury among local politicians who have slammed some of the proposed new boundaries as “illogical”.
A report released by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England outlines the independent body’s recommendations for 11 three-member wards, drawn up after the council voted last year to reduce the number of councillors from 42 to 33.
The proposals have entered a crucial 10-week consultation period but some ideas have shocked local councillors, including the plan to join Areley Kings with Stourport town centre to create an Areley Kings and Riverside ward.
Eyebrows have also been raised at the idea of bundling part of Stourport with Wribbenhall and Kidderminster Foreign in a Severn Valley ward which will cover three parish council areas.
Other controversial proposals would see a Wyre Forest Rural “super ward” create an ark around the east of the district from Wolverley and Cookley to Chaddesley Corbett. In Kidderminster, most of Greenhill could be joined with Offmore and Comberton.
Plans must make sure each councillor represents nearly 2,500 electors.
Conservative Councillor Marcus Hart, district council Leader, said cutting the number of councillors would save £50,000 a year but admitted the latest proposals were “interesting”, adding: “Now is the opportunity for members of the public to have their say.”
Liberal councillor Fran Oborski said some of the proposals ran “roughshod over the interests of communities”, adding: “To chuck part of Bewdley in with Stourport, there is absolutely no community of interest. These are historically separate towns with historically separate identities.
“We can live with what they have done in Kidderminster but the Severn Valley ward is ridiculous. In Wyre Forest Rural, the only thing the areas have in common is they are villages. It shows contempt for local communities. I can accept the plan saves money but it leaves some appalling democratic deficits.”
The commission’s report says: “The achievement of absolute electoral equality is unlikely to be attainable” but adds: “There must be a degree of flexibility”.
Labour leader Jamie Shaw argued it was impossible to produce a set of wards based on 33 councillors that did not result in “completely illogical boundaries”.
“It is a figure arrived at because it was a 25 per cent reduction and the Tories wanted to make a reduction because they wish to see the role of the state reduced,” he added. “We end up with wards that are not represented properly.”
Independent Community and Health Concern leader Graham Ballinger, said he thought the decisions were “political” and said his party would make its own representations to the commission.
“Stourport is an ICHC stronghold so I am not surprised by these proposals,” he added. “There was no need for this whole farce and it will confuse members of the public.”
Mr Hart argued: “We as politicians have to take our share of the reductions. We expect our staff to work harder, therefore I do not see it as unreasonable of us to work harder and represent more people.”
Max Caller, commission chairman, said: “Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters. This means each councillors represents a similar number of people.”
He added: “We also want to ensure our proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities across Wyre Forest and the pattern of wards can help the council deliver effective local Government.”
The 11 wards are Aggborough and Spennells, Areley Kings and Riverside, Bewdley and Rock, Broadwaters, Foley Park and Hoobrook, Franche and Habberley North, Mitton, Offmore and Comberton, Severn Valley, Sutton Park and Habberley South and Wyre Forest Rural.
A consultation is now under way until June 24. In the meantime a working party will discuss the recommendations before they are put before full council in June. A decision must be made before People can contact the commission by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, visit consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/1820 or write to LGBC, Layden House, 76-87 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5LG.