THE board of Castletown Commissioners will be reduced, at the next election in 2016, from nine to seven members.
The landmark decision follows a debate on Monday, after commissioners’ chairman Kevin Weir introduced a notice of motion that the board be reduced by two members.
During the debate, Mr Weir said: ‘In November 2011, I first brought this to the board, it [the motion] was never heard, there was an amendment by [commissioner] Colin [Leather] that it was so close to the election it should be left to the new board to make a decision.
‘Members agreed with the motion, but not at that time. We are the new board.’
He added: ‘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.
‘It sends out the message the board is in favour of local government reform. There will be change, but it is coming from us, not enforced.
‘It’s time to take the lead in the south and reduce our number.’
Commissioner David Parnell seconded the motion. Mr Parnell said: ‘We [authorities in the south] have got to start to prepare ourselves for merging boards.’
James Quine was also in favour of the motion.
Commissioner Peter Hill-Heaton agreed the board is ‘top heavy’ and said he will not stand at the next election.
‘The argument is always we are top heavy,’ said Colin Leather. ‘Another one is we do not get enough candidates at the election. This time [election] there were 11 here and in Port Erin there were 16, having elections on the same day means there is more interest in local government elections.’
He added the population in the town is increasing, meaning ‘the ratio of commissioners to residents is getting higher.
‘I do not think being top heavy is enough argument to reduce. A lot of people round this table do work hard.’
Commissioner Richard McAleer said seven members would be the right number.
Even though there are nine members, commissioner Dorothy Faragher claimed: ‘I do pull my weight.’
Commissioner Alwyn Callister argued that Mr Weir’s notice had been brought too soon. ‘We are four months into a four year period of office.
‘The last time we left it too late, we need to do it two years from the end [of office]. We need to think about it.
‘We do not know what’s round the corner, there could be more responsibility for local authority members, that would be expensive if there was no more funding with extra responsibility.’
He added: ‘At times it’s very hard to get a quorum for a meeting in town – if we reduce to seven it is less likely we will get any more turning up. We may have to join with someone else [another authority] at a later stage.’
He added that reducing the board’s size was a ‘detrimental step’.
‘We might regret this in two years’ time,’ he said, and proposed deferring the motion for 18 months.
‘We should see what responsibilities are given to us. We may be told to do it [reduce], if we are told to do it, that’s another thing.’
It received broad support from commissioner Andrew Thomas, who said he thought local government reform was inevitable and the motion was going some way towards it.
Each commissioner in Castletown represents more than 300 people, whereas in Onchan [with seven members for 9,000 people] it is more than 1,200 per head,’ said Mr Weir, who added: ‘We are well out of balance.’
There will never be a good time for change, he said.
Mr Leather proposed an amendment that the discussion is deferred for 18 months and was seconded by Mr Collister and supported by Mr Hill-Heaton and Ms Faragher.
But the majority – Mr Weir, Mr Thomas, Mr Quine, Mr McAleer and Mr Parnell – voted against the amendment, and for the original motion, which was passed.
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