Saturday, 30 May 2015

Councillors back Saltcoats boundary split

A majority of councillors have backed proposals for boundary changes to local Wards that would see Saltcoats split in two.

At a special meeting of North Ayrshire Council, held last week, it was agreed the local authority would respond to the Boundary Commission for Scotland by setting-out plans for new electoral Wards and an increase in the number of councillors in North Ayrshire.

A move by Ardrossan Independent councillor John Hunter to retain existing boundaries and the current 30 councillors did not receive sufficient support.  Instead, a majority of SNP and Labour councillors backed the proposal for boundary changes, which was set-out in a report submitted by council Chief Executive Elma Murray.

The top official’s extensive report argued, “It is essential that ward boundaries, wherever possible align with the boundaries of neighbourhood planning areas.  In order to do so with an acceptable parity of electors per councillor, 35 Members are required.”

However, the Boundary Commission for Scotland has imposed a 10% cap on the increase in councillors per local authority, meaning North Ayrshire could expect to receive an additional three members, taking the total to 33.

Speaking to after the council meeting, John Hunter said, “I don’t see how local people will be better represented by having an extra three councillors across the whole of North Ayrshire.”

Cllr Hunter also expressed concern over the proposal that would see the town of Saltcoats divided in two, with one part placed in a Ward with Ardrossan, and the other linked to Stevenston.

In Elma Murray’s report to last week’s council meeting, the Chief Executive said, “It is important to recognise that while an outsider might view the towns of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston as a single conurbation, this is not the view of many residents, whose ties are to their individual town.

“The Council recognises that while ideally it would have been helpful to have three wards reflecting the boundaries of the three individual towns, this is not possible.  The disparity in the number of electors per Councillor would be too high in the case of Stevenston.

“While recognising that there will have to be at least one split, it is important for the preservation of local ties that the number of splits is minimised.  The Council’s proposal retains the towns of Stevenston and Ardrossan in single wards, splitting only Saltcoats.”

If agreed by the Boundary Commission for Scotland and Scottish Government ministers, the changes would create electoral Wards called ‘Ardrossan & Saltcoats North’ and ‘Stevenston & Saltcoats South’.

In further proposed changes, the island of Arran, which is currently in a Ward with Ardrossan, would be moved to a new electoral district with Fairlie and West Kilbride.  Kilbirnie would also be split to form ‘Dalry & Kilbirnie West’ and ‘Beith & Kilbirnie East’.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland will now undertake a public consultation in relation to the changes proposed for local Wards and the number of councillors representing North Ayrshire.  Once complete, the Commission will make recommendations to Scottish Government ministers who have the final say on whether or not changes should go ahead.

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