Snog, marry, avoid (don’t bother puckering up, Ron)

There are fifty-one councillors in Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. Three for each of the seventeen wards.

The Great And Glorious Leader Of The Council, Ron Woodley, is suggesting that the number of councillors could be reduced by a third, saving £250000 (according to reports).

Going from fifty-one to thirty-four will save money, although I disagree with the sums allegedly saved. Since we must keep portfolios, etc, the special responsibilities, and their allowances, will still exist. We only save on basic allowances – which I think saves us less than £147900 per annum.

The Borough had thirty-nine councillors before becoming a Unitary Authority; and the addition of a dozen members was argued for on the grounds of increased workload. I doubt that the merit of that particular argument has gone away.

We could, of course, save money by reducing allowances.

Going from three to two councillors for each ward does allow for the intriguing game of ‘guess who is for the chop?

This must be an easy guess for Thorpe ward – one imagines that the author of this bright idea would be the first to volunteer for the Carousel. Adios Ron.

This grand version of snog, marry, avoid for our electorate does allow for some gladiatorial selection meetings. Will Lamb lose out to Evans and Phillips? Will Byford emerge triumphant in Eastwood Park – seducing those liable to believe his battle-cry of “we are full up” – leaving either Moring or Walker to contemplate a longer retirement than planned. Will Folkard again be reduced to finding yet another safe ward for his polemic abilities. Turning three into two will see all sorts of egos bruised as colleagues fight it out in the battle to survive this cull.

I think we should be looking to make savings in the chamber, but I am not convinced that a reduced membership is at all advisable. One notes that Parliament itself, author of the cuts, is increasing its membership by way of the Prime Minister bestowing so many peerages upon his friends. A classic example of do as I say ….

The need to make savings does not make any of the work go away, and so to enact a cull can only lead to a reduced service for those who elect us. As the town’s population grows it strikes me as perverse that we seek to distance those elected to serve – for distance is an inevitable consequence.

We are supposed to treasure our democracy, not knock it around to suit one agenda or another.

We could reduce the number of polling stations in Southend

There are 79 polling station stations in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea, an average of 4.6 per ward. I think that some small savings can be achieved by merging some of these.

I realise that there could some small inconveniences, and no doubt some will claim that this would make voting more difficult. However, with postal voting more available than ever before, and aware that turnout is plumbing new depths, the affect is negligible at worst and non-existent at best.

I am not about to suggest what should be done in other wards, but I am prepared to propose change in Milton.

Milton has six polling stations; above average in a compact ward. Removing two of these would not be a great inconvenience and would still give everyone only a short walk when expressing their suffrage.

Milton’s polling stations are:

St. Johns Church, Church Road
Salvation Army Hall, Clarence Road/Clarence Street
The Foyer, Cliffs Pavilion
Trinity Methodist Church, Argyll Road
Room at Avenue Baptist Church, Milton Road
St Marks Church Hall, Princes Street

I reckon we could remove the Salvation Army Hall station and ask its voters to either use the St.Johns church or the St.Marks Church Hall.

I also reckon we could remove the Cliffs Pavilion polling station and ask its patrons to use the room at the Avenue Baptist Church.

I realise that the savings would not be great, but have long wondered why the ward with the smallest electorate has so many polling stations, especially considering the physical compactness of Milton.