Councillors have clashed over whether Rugby Borough Council should save £43,000 a year by changing the way it elects councillors.
On Tuesday night Rugby’s Conservative and Labour groups voted to keep electing one third of councillors each year with a break every forth year. Switching to all out elections every four years would save just over £43,000 a year.
Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, who voted for all out elections, said: “For a Conservative Group obsessed with saving money this came as quite a shock.
“Year after year we hear Rugby Borough’s council leader Craig Humphrey bang on about making every penny count and yet when the Conservatives have a chance to save nearly £500,000 over ten years they turn it down.”
Cllr Howard Roberts, independent, added: “With finances stretched to breaking point this decision baffled me.
“This proposal could have saved front-line services and cut council tax. Frankly I find the decision baffling and without persuasive reasoning. The system of all out elections is proven to work in authorities elsewhere in Warwickshire and I’m amazed Rugby will not be taking advantage of it.”
But Conservative Cllr Michael Stokes argued that all out elections can lead to sudden changes in administration, decisions being reversed, an inexperienced council and in extreme cases ‘single issue’ or extreme-right groups taking control.
He said: “It is easy to read the headline savings expressed in the report and assume that all out is the best way to go. I’ve no doubt that short term we may have seen very small savings, but long term, keeping the current system offers real value for money, stability and more engagement with the electorate – which is always a good thing.”
A report of the Electoral Registration and Returning Officer into the matter recommended the council adopt a switch to all out elections.
It read: “There is a financial need to ensure that the costs of Borough Council elections are as low as possible, whilst ensuring that legal obligations are met. There is a financial imperative to make savings across the authority and there is an opportunity for electoral practices to make an effective and sustainable contribution.
“A cost reduction amounting to £430,640 could be made during the next 10 years by the adoption of a system of all-out elections every 4 years, beginning in 2014.”
Five parish councils around Rugby also contributed to the report, with none of them raising objections to the proposal.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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