The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.
For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.
Temporary measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings within the John Meikle Meeting Room at the Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements, the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.
Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity. With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person in the office buildings, if they wish (we will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a Governance and Democracy Case Manager). Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Mr Roger House, Taunton Resident, was in attendance and posed the following question;
Electoral arrangements page 5 and question 11 and the number 25
We have listed 16 existing Councillors for the Shadow Councillor Group to set up new Third Tier Councils. This does not sound many compared to the number of electors and 70 odd parish councillors that serve them in the eight surrounding parishes. I assume we have to follow the important Unitary Council boundary review process, before being able to pinpoint what Council size the Boundary Commission will permit for Taunton third tier Councils. The Boundary Commission’s advice on electoral arrangements is related to existing council sizes, for parishes over 20,000 electors: they report parish or town councils vary from 13 to 31 members.
County Towns, Dorchester and Truro around 20,000 electors, have 20 and 21 members respectively. Salisbury City Council population 40,000 formed in 2008 have 24 Council members.
Also the newest formed (2019) South West Town Council, Weymouth; it has 48,000 electors and 29 elected members.
16 elected members for Taunton stated in the consultation documents is clearly inadequate. Even if we start with 16 district councillors as a shadow body to set up a new Town Council then the future elected number must as a minimum be of 25. If new boundaries are not available by May 2023 elections, a 16 strong elected Council after inception should be allowed to co-opt some extra members, until a subsequent election is fought with wards for 25 Town Councillors. That would be an increase in councillors - north of the rail line 5 to 8 and south of the rail line 11 to 17. Our current electorate of 34,536 must surely rise rapidly as town centre housing proposals are built and empty offices converted to residential.
Another perception with existing town councils and warding is that where large multi-member wards can lead to one party block voting and continuing unhealthy political representation. Dorchester Town 5 wards and 18 Lib Dems of 20 Councillors, Frome town 5 wards and all Independents for Frome Councillors, then Yeovil Town all large wards returning just Lib Dem Councillors.
The latest new town council in Weymouth has been formed with smaller wards confined to two or three members to reflect more diversity and help define local communities within the town, as now described in boundary commission advice. That has meant in Weymouth there are four differing party groups plus independent councillors elected to the new body.
This modern concept of party warding is what we want here and taken with the Councillor number issue above, makes in particular the forming of a new single Town Council with one or two member wards
“Much more attractive than the option inferred by the Councils current consultation”.
A councillor workload spread, vital to help more young working people to participate.
And lastly can we ask the towns estate agents to properly name those wards based on their property for sale or let adverts. The increase in Councillors numbers is key to making this possible, for example
For the current Victoria Ward 2 seats become 3 - Priory and Trinity classic Victorian areas perhaps combined as one ward and Firepool brash new development constrained by the rail line, a single ward.
For Creechbarrow ward, easy to split in three – Lambrook, Halcon and Lane Estate. Just add 19 more traditional place names for a town council based on real communities.
Can the Charter Trustees support election warding on these principals to better promote the Taunton Town Council case to fill the unparished area?
The Mayor thanked Mr House for his question and asked Officers to provide a response. Officers thanked Mr House for his statement and question and offered a written response if required. Officers felt that if the chosen geographical area was wider than the Unparished Area it would not preclude the Council from bringing in persons representing those areas into the Shadow Town Council. The electoral arrangements would not be for the Boundary Commission but the principal council to decide on those matters.