First published in the Saddleworth Independent
LOCAL people are invited to help draw up new ward boundaries across Oldham as part of a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.
The commission is carrying out the review nationwide to make sure councillors represent about the same number of electors and ward arrangements help the council work effectively.
They also want to ensure that wards have boundaries that are appropriate, reflecting community ties and identities.
Currently in Oldham there are 20 electoral wards, represented by 44 Labour councillors, eight Liberal Democrats, four Conservatives and two Independents. There are two vacant seats.
Saddleworth’s wards are Saddleworth North, Saddleworth South and Saddleworth West & Lees, each represented by three councillors.
The Commission has decided that the number of councillors in Oldham in should remain at 60 across the borough.
Residents and organisations can submit their thoughts on the local area and ward boundaries during a ten-week consultation, which runs until March 16, 2021.
The Commission is interested in views on which communities should be part of the same ward and what facilities people share, such as parks, leisure centres or schools and shopping area.
What issues do neighbouring communities face that they have in common, such as high numbers of visitors or heavy traffic?
Have there been new housing or commercial developments that have changed the focus of communities? And are there roads, rivers, railways or other features that people believe form strong boundaries between neighbourhoods?
The Commission will use local views to help draw up proposals for the new ward boundaries and then there will be a further round of consultation.
That consultation is currently expected to take place from June 1, 2021 to August 9, 2021 before final recommendations are published on November 2, 2021.
Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Commission, said: “We want people in Oldham to help us. We want our proposals for new electoral arrangements to reflect communities.
“We also want them to be easy to understand and convenient for local people.
“Residents and local organisations can help us understand community ties and identities at this early stage of the process.
“It’s easy to get involved – go to our website or can e-mail or write to us. Just tell us what you think and give us some details why you think that. It’s really simple, so do get involved.”
Oldham Liberal Democrats have argued since 2012 that the number of councillors should be cut from three to two per ward to save taxpayers at least £190,000 a year.
Cllr Howard Sykes said the group was ‘disappointed’ to hear the Commission has chosen to keep Oldham’s councillors at 60.
He added: “Times have changed since the current councillor numbers were agreed.
“The Committee system has been replaced with a Cabinet so only a handful of councillors are involved in daily decision-making.
“We now live in a world of social media, emails and online meetings, making the conduct of council business far quicker and easier, without the time-consuming commuting.
“Even more important, the number of staff at the council and the budget with which the council delivers services have halved over the last decade.
“We believe it is only right and proper that the number of councillors should be reduced and both staff numbers, services and budgets have.”
The Commission has a dedicated section on its website where people can give their views: consultation.lgbce.org.uk/have-your-say/24328
People can also give their views by e-mail at email@example.com and by post: The Review Officer for Oldham, LGBCE, PO Box 133, Blyth, NE24 9FE.