POLL: Is 12 too many? Doing some sums on the number of councillors

WITH Wellington Council considering reducing its councillors from nine to seven, Orange City councillors have expressed mixed feelings about keeping their numbers at 12.

Councillor Reg Kidd said he would present a motion to Orange council in the coming months to reduce the number of councillors from 12 to nine.

“I think 12 becomes a bit unruly sometimes,” he said.

“Local government has changed in the past 20 years - the council is making the policy, but the general manager has the majority of the power.”

Councillor Glenn Taylor said nine was the ideal number and commitments could still be covered.

“But only on our current [council] boundaries,” he said.

“Before, it would take us two nights to consider the management plan, but now we do it as an item in a meeting.”

Councillor Neil Jones said the cost saving would be insignificant for a budget the size of Orange’s but thought an odd number of councillors would be better to reduce the need for a mayoral casting vote when the vote was split six-all.

“I’ve often seen [the casting vote] as being not right because it gives one member of the council two votes,” he said.

“A council of 11 gives more of a degree of equity and democracy.”

Orange mayor John Davis and councillor Kevin Duffy said they would have no problem with an odd number of councillors.

“But then if a councillor is away, it’s even again,” Cr Davis said.

He said cutting the number of councillors to save money was short-sighted.

“The least expense of running a council is the renumeration of councillors and the community is probably better represented by more rather than less,” he said.

“I think 12 becomes a bit unruly sometimes" - COUNCILLOR REG KIDD

“If you reduce the number of councillors, you run the risk of getting a limited view of situations and decisions" - COUNCILLOR ASH BROWN

“The least expense of running a council is the renumeration of councillors and the community is probably better represented by more rather than less" - ORANGE MAYOR JOHN DAVIS

Deputy mayor Chris Gryllis and councillor Russell Turner had misgivings about reducing the amount of expertise in the council.

“Those who are elected need to put some time towards it, but some put in more effort than others,” Cr Gryllis said.

“If you have 12 and two or three don’t pay attention, if you have seven, very few people end up running the council.”

Cr Turner said 12 was the perfect number, especially if councillors were missing from a meeting.

“Or if they declare an interest, all of a sudden you’re down to five or six who can legitimately vote,” he said.

Councillor Ron Gander said he was busy with council matters seven days a week as it was.

“I can’t see us surviving with any less,” he said.

OUR SAY: COST BENEFITS OF CULLING COUNCILLORS

Councillors Ash Brown, James Hamling and Jeff Whitton were also in favour of the status quo.

“[Casting votes] don’t happen often,” Cr Brown said.

“If you reduce the number of councillors, you run the risk of getting a limited view of situations and decisions.”

Crs Whitton and Hamling said Orange was larger than Wellington and growing, while Cr Duffy said it would be unwise to talk about councillor numbers until the state government decided on council boundaries and suggested amalgamations.

Councillor Scott Munro was also contacted for comment.

Orange City Council spokesman Allan Reeder said the council did not have a policy for the number of councillors and it would be up to councillors to vote on a proposed change.

If councillors voted to reduce numbers, public comment would be sought for 42 days and then sent to the Minister for Local Government for approval. 

Councillors are paid $17,490 a year - three fewer councillors would save the council $52,470.

Wellington councillors were due to vote on the matter last night in a bid to reduce operating costs.

No result was known at the time of publication.

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