THERE must have been panic in the Titanic last year, as the Boundary Commission set about reviewing West Dorset District Council’s crew of elected members.
WDDC’s own figures, hardly likely to be underestimated, showed that its 48 councillors spend an average of 16 hours a week on council business, compared with the national average of 23 hours. Are they overmanned, underemployed, or both? Whichever way, the public has to pay.
Seeing the writing on the bulkhead, WDDC volunteered to make do with only 43 councillors, which still leaves them doing less than 18 hours a week.
In fact, at the national average rate, 33 councillors could cover West Dorset’s workload.
The Boundary Commission then invited comments from West Dorset’s residents. Almost all the respondents suggested even sharper reductions in councillor numbers.
Several also advocated overhauling WDDC’s leader-and-cabinet governance model with a view to improving the quality of debate and decision-making.
Even more proposed abolishing district/borough councils altogether and that Dorset implement a unitary system of governance. At WDDC, unitary is the elephant in the stateroom. Savings under a unitary authority would dwarf those achievable under the current frenetic rounds of bipartite/tripartite tinkering and penny-pinching. Unquestionably, reliably, year after year.But, in the end, the Boundary Commission has plumped for 42 councillors. Cue huge sighs of relief on the bridge of WDDC’s flagship.
Culling the complement to 42 is an inconsequential act, rather like jettisoning six of the Titanic’s deckchairs.
We could do with a tidal wave to sweep away the lot.