Edinburgh ‘needs 36 more councillors’ on payroll

Sue Bruce says the Capital has 'proportionately fewer councillors than many other Scottish authorities'. Picture: Julie Bull
Sue Bruce says the Capital has 'proportionately fewer councillors than many other Scottish authorities'. Picture: Julie Bull
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THE city council is pushing to have six new councillors brought in to represent Edinburgh as part of a major overhaul of council boundaries.

Independent analysts from the Boundary Commission have said the city’s growing population means it should have up to 36 extra councillors. However, it is recommending the immediate appointment of an extra five – a move that would cost up to £100,000 a year.

But city leaders are pressing for six more to be given seats and stress that the Capital has “proportionately fewer councillors than many other Scottish authorities”.

The plans have sparked anger from critics who said the proposals were “folly” and suggested there should instead be a review to see whether the number could be reduced.

If numbers were increased it means the city would have 64 councillors members rather than the current 58.

Any changes will be introduced ahead of the 2017 local government elections and may also include the redrawing of constituency boundaries.

Given Edinburgh’s population, Boundary Commission calculations suggest the city needs 94 councillors, but the commission has set an upper threshold of 85 and will only swell councils by ten per cent during review, held once every eight to ten years.

In a letter to the Boundary Commission, chief executive Sue Bruce insisted six new councillors would be “more appropriate” than five because the Capital has “proportionately fewer councillors than many other Scottish authorities”.

She highlighted city ratios of one councillor per 3800 voters as evidence of an unbalanced electoral system, and argued that the Capital’s soaring population demanded greater political representation.

“As Edinburgh’s population and electorate continue to grow, so does the level of representation the city will require at local government level,” she said.

“The total electorate has increased by 13,000 in the last 15 months and continued growth is predicted.”

She added: “Overall, the analysis suggests that levels of inequality in Edinburgh are greater and more severe than that recorded in other Scottish cities.

Such levels of inequality can have significant implications for the delivery of effective public services to areas of need and ensuring effective representation of local electorates.”

But Eden Wilson, spokesman for Taxpayers Scotland, said councils were already mired in bureaucracy and called for slimmed-down government.

He said: “Scotland is over-governed already. We have multiple layers of government and plenty of representation for policy matters.

“It’s far better to consider a complete review of what our councils are for and whether we can reduce what they do and so our taxes.”

Council chiefs will discuss the proposed increase of elected members before reporting back to the Boundary Commission by April 23.

The proposed changes come after councillors received a two per cent pay rise despite the squeeze on local authority budgets.

‘ADDITION IS NOT STRAIGHTFORWARD’

FOR the first time, the Boundary Commission is including levels of deprivation in calculations over changes to ward sizes and councillor numbers.

A rise in numbers on Edinburgh City Council may precede “significant changes to ward boundaries”, said Hugh Buchanan, secretary to the Boundary Commission for Scotland.

“To design wards for five more councillors is not simply a matter of adding one to the number of councillors to a few wards but rather looking at boundaries of all wards.

“The commission feels that population distribution is an important way of differentiating from intensely urban councils on one hand and very rural councils on the other hand and the range in between.”