HAVING been voted against by the town’s commissioners in March, fresh calls have been made to abolish Ramsey’s north and south wards, the two separate districts that make up the local authority.
Also being considered is the Department of Infrastructure’s advice for local authorities to follow the lead of Castletown Commissioners and reduce the number of elected members.
During discussion, Ramsey Town Commissioners agreed not to consider cutting the size of the board until the Scope of Government consultation had been completed, that is, when it is revealed if the authority will have to take on extra responsibilities or amalgamate with local government in surrounding areas.
However, chairman Nigel Malpass re-asserted his belief that the current two ward system is not suited to modern Ramsey, in that it harked back to the days when there was a significant difference between the two districts – the south was more urban and the north more rural, which is no longer the case.
‘Today the area is different to 1865,’ said Captain Malpass. ‘There’s an undemocratic process, if you are elected in North Ward, you get to represent South Ward straight away, but they’ve had no say in the election.’
Any changes however would require a public inquiry to allow people in the area to have their say.
Town Clerk Peter Whiteway advised: ‘If the board proceeds to amalgamate the wards at this time, I feel the Department would say you will have to consult the public on the amount of commissioners, to avoid the costs of two consultations.’
The initial proposal to end the two-ward system was made by commissioner Wilf Young back in January, who said it seemed stupid for a small place like Ramsey to be split into two divisions when one would suffice. Put to the vote in March however it failed to gain enough support for change.
Speaking at September’s meeting, the board still appeared divided.
‘North and south has served us very well for several years. There would be no savings of costs,’ said Geoffrey Quayle. ‘And streamlining representation? We meet once a month! No one has convinced me that streamlining would improve anything.’
Members Tony Harmer and Dr Allinson both said they could see the logic of having just one ward, though Dr Allinson added implementing any changes could take years.
On the subject of reducing the number of commissioners, Dr Allinson noted it would be like ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’, though Mr Harmer said that the Castletown example is not applicable to Ramsey, saying: ‘The population of Castletown is less than half of Ramsey. They now have seven commissioners, and we have 12.’
The matter of both the amalgamation of the wards and a reduction of members was deferred to the October meeting while benefits and costs of changes are examined.
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