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WELSH DISTRICTS FIGHT ALONE AGAINST CUTS IN MEMBERS

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Welsh councils are to meet Welsh Secretary John Redwood next week to discuss their concerns at proposals to cut the...
Welsh councils are to meet Welsh Secretary John Redwood next week to discuss their concerns at proposals to cut the number of council members by almost half.

Representatives of the Council of Welsh Districts reject the Welsh Office plan to cut council members from 1,976 to 1,100 - equivalent to one member per 2,000 electors.

But Russell Goodway, chairman of the Assembly of Welsh Counties' reorganisation committee, said there were no plans for the AWC to attend the meeting with Mr Redwood.

The AWC, which is pursuing a policy of non co-operation with the Welsh Office, has refused to comment publicly on the proposals. An executive council meeting last month merely noted them.

The districts are expected to propose a figure of 1,300 members - a 37% cut - despite reservations in their official response that it was 'barely sufficient to provide the required representation'.

Districts support ministers' preference for the use of district wards for the 1994 elections and reject the suggestion that each council have a basic allowance of 29 members for the 1994 elections.

This would have 'unduly disadvantaged the level of representation in those unitary authorities based on the merger of districts', the CWD says.

A figure of 15 would be more fair and practical, it says.

The CWD also calls for an end to laws banning officers from seeking election to their employing council.

The creation of unitary authorities would prevent more than 10% of the working population from seeking membership of local councils.

'Consideration needs to be given to identifying groups of local government employees who are sufficiently distant from the senior management and policy advisory processes to allow them to be effective members of councils', the CWD said.

l Welsh districts claim the government's apparent policy reversal in favour of larger unitary authorities comprised of several area committees is a tacit admission that some of its proposed councils do not have sufficient community basis.

Arrangements which Mr Redwood outlined in July in parliament 'clearly undermine the principle of unitary authorities and would create a two tier structure', says a CWD draft response to the white paper.

This would have all the disadvantages of the current system such as conflict, blurred accountability and confused relationships with other organisations, it says.

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