Interviewed in the Daily Express, the Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies, puts the case for cutting back on the number of councillors. He plans to halve the number.
“If you look at America in the state of Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia has 1.2 million people – and 17 councillors. Pittsburgh has 370,000 people and nine councillors. So what are we doing with all these people?” he says. “I have a cabinet of six people and between us we run the council. If we got rid of two thirds of the councillors, we’d save £800,000 a year and the other thing is we might get better councillors.
“The councillors in Doncaster have a history of fighting with the previous mayor, fighting among themselves and fighting within their own parties – so much so that mentors have had to be brought in to Doncaster to teach the councillors how to behave themselves. That alone cost us tens of thousands of pounds. If you are telling me we can do with these people, I say the answer is ‘No’.”
The argument is particularly strong where there is a directly elected mayor. But should there be fewer councillors generally? Would this mean the lazy ones being ditched and the capable and hard working surviving? Councils are vast bureaucracies with budgets running into hundreds of millions. Would fewer councillors make the challenge of keeping them accountable even harder?