LOCAL authorities around the island are being urged to follow the lead of Castletown Commissioners and streamline their operations by reducing the number of elected members on their boards.
It follows the historic decision by Castletown Commissioners earlier this month to reduce its membership from nine to seven.
Richard Ronan MHK, Department of Infrastructure member with responsibility for local government, welcomed the move.
He said: ‘The department would encourage other local authorities, especially larger authorities with higher elected member numbers to consider a similar course of action.
‘In recent years the department has been urging local authorities to look at the number of elected members, and look to reduce them where it can be demonstrated that benefits would arrive from streamlining representation. Of course, the number of residents per local authority district, along with other factors, will have to be factored into the equation.’
The move to reduce the number of Castletown board members in time for the next election in 2016 followed a motion brought by commissioner Kevin Weir.
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Mr Ronan, MHK for Castletown and a former town commissioner himself, said: ‘The decision to reduce their numbers is a significant and indeed historic one. From personal experience I recognise both the work that the commissioners do and the need for this streamlining. I would like to thank Mr Weir for bringing the motion, and the members for voting for the change.’
Castletown Commissioners will now work with the department to bring about the reduction.
First, however, the proposal will be subject to a public inquiry to allow ratepayers to have their say and, following the chairman of that inquiry’s report, Tynwald will vote on the proposals.
Tabling his motion to cut the size of the board, Mr Weir said: ‘I firmly believe in the interest of overall efficiencies going to seven members is the right and proper thing to do. We have to move with the times, nine members is top heavy.
‘With seven members everyone is more accountable and has to hold their weight.’
He said each commissioner in Castletown currently represents more than 300 people, whereas in Onchan - which has seven members for 9,000 people – the ratio is more than 1,200 per head.
Last month, Port Erin Commissioner narrowly voted against a motion calling for the board to reduced nine to seven members.
Commissioner Phil Crellin said he had never heard a coherent argument to reduce the number of politicians and in a climate of reform it would ‘give people ammunition’ to reduce the number of local authorities. And commissioner Gerry Callister said cutting the board ran the risk – with absence due to sickness and holidays – of not getting a quorum.