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COUNCILLOR NUMBERS UNDER NEW SCOTS LOCAL GOVT STRUCTURE

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Electoral wards for most of the new single-tier councils will be based on district council wards, Scottish secretar...
Electoral wards for most of the new single-tier councils will be based on district council wards, Scottish secretary Ian Lang announced today.

This will mean a total of 1,161 councillors serving on the new councils.

This decision follows a public consultation on the electoral wards to be used for the first elections to the new councils to be held on April 6, 1995.

Directions made earlier today under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994 formally established the new wards.

Mr Lang said:

'We are grateful to all authorities, community councils, individuals and other organisations who commented on our earlier consultation letters. A strong preference for a district ward approach was apparent in the responses to our proposals and this is reflected in the formal directions that have now been made.

'In most areas, the new wards reflect those to emerge from the recent review conducted by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. It is good sense to make full use of the commission's work which has been subject to separate consultation and independent scrutiny.'

In relation to decisions for Fife and Dumfries and Galloway, Mr Lang commented:

'The proposal on which we consulted was to base the new electoral wards in these areas on regional electoral divisions. This would have produced 46 councillors for Fife and 35 for Dumfries and Galloway.

'Many people considered that to be too low and we have therefore adopted a district ward approach which will mean 92 councillors in Fife and 70 in Dumfries and Galloway.

'Many of those who offered views acknowledged that while this was the only practical solution in these areas in the short term, the overall size of these councils was really too large. I would therefore expect the Boundary Commission to look closely at the number of councillors for these areas when it reviews their electoral areas after April 1, 1996.'

In relation to Borders, Mr Lang commented:

'There was some division of public opinion in relation to the Borders with preferences ranging from 27 to 58 new wards - but the majority favoured the higher figure and we have so decided.

'We recognise that this gives proportionately more representation to the people of Tweeddale, when compared with other parts of the region.

'But we concluded that the balance of advantage lay in following lines drawn by the Boundary Commission rather than the government unilaterally drawing new lines.

'Once again, comments that we received suggested that there may be scope for some reduction in the overall number of councillors for the Borders when the Boundary Commission conducts its first review of the new electoral areas and I have no doubt also that they will wish to address the apparent anomaly in Tweeddale at that time.'

On Highland, Mr Lang said:

'In the light of representations, we concluded that there should be 72 councillors on the new Highland Council - an increase of six over our consultative proposal.

'This has been achieved by combining two district wards to make one new electoral ward or, in a few cases, by allowing large rural wards to stand on their own.

'This flexibility, which was not available to us when looking at other areas, stems from the very diverse nature of the Highland geography and settlement pattern and the resultant variations that already exist under the current system in terms of numbers of electors per ward.

'I was particularly grateful for the many comments we received in relation to this area and I believe that the solution we have proposed meets many of the practical concerns that were expressed to us.'

Mr Lang concluded:

'In reaching our decisions on this crucial issue the government have listened closely to public opinion. The increases over our consultative proposals in some areas will be of considerable benefit and will give enhanced flexibility to councils when drawing up their decentralisation plans (which are a requirement under the Act) allowing scope for the development, for example of area committees.

I would emphasise also that the electoral wards will be used for the first elections to the new councils on April 6, 1995 and thereafter they will be assessed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland'.

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