The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England is asking people across Somerset to comment on its draft proposals for new electoral arrangements for Somerset County Council.
A seven-week public consultation on the recommendations begins today and will end on 9 April 2012. The consultation is open to anyone in Somerset who wants to have their say on new electoral divisions, division boundaries and division names across the county.
The Commission's draft recommendations propose that Somerset County Council should have 55 county councillors - three fewer than at present. The proposals would mean those councillors would represent 51 single-member and two two-member electoral divisions across Somerset.
The full recommendations and detailed maps are available on the Commission's website at www.lgbce.org.uk. They will also be available to view at council buildings and libraries.
Max Caller, Chair of the LGBCE, said: "We are publishing proposals for a new pattern of electoral divisions across Somerset and we're keen to hear what local people think of the recommendations. Over the next few weeks, we are asking local people to tell us if they agree with the proposals or if not, how they can be improved.
"Having fair electoral boundaries for your council is important. Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for Somerset's voters. This means that each county councillor represents a similar number of people so that everyone's vote in county council elections is worth roughly the same regardless of where you live.
"We will consider all the submissions we receive whoever they are from and whether your evidence applies to the whole county or just a part of it.
"In many parts of Somerset, our recommendations are based on proposals put to us by Somerset County Council. In others we have relied on suggestions presented to us by other local organisations and there are several parts of the county where we have devised our own pattern of divisions. We have an open mind about further suggestions from local people to change and improve these recommendations.
"There are three key factors you should consider when making submissions to us during the consultation. They are the rules, set out in law, which the Commission has to abide by when making our recommendations. Firstly, proposals must ensure electoral equality for voters with each councillor representing around the same number of electors. Second, the new divisions should - as far as possible - reflect the communities of Somerset. And finally, the proposals should help the council deliver effective and convenient local government."
The Commission wants to hear as much evidence as possible in order to develop final recommendations for Somerset County Council. If you would like to make a submission to the Commission, please write or email us by 9 April 2012:The Review Officer (Somerset) Local Government Boundary Commission for England Layden House 76-86 Turnmill Street London EC1M 5LG
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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1. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is responsible for reviewing local authority electoral arrangements, defining boundaries for local elections and the number of councillors to be elected, as well as conducting reviews of local government external boundaries and structures.
2. The Commission is carrying out the review because Somerset currently has relatively high levels of electoral inequality. Ilchester division, for example, has 40% more electors per councillor than the average in Somerset which means that the value of your vote varies considerably depending on where you live in the county.
3. The types of questions the Commission is asking residents at this stage are:
4. Residents have from 21 February until 9 April 2012 to have their say about where ward boundaries for Somerset should be drawn. The Commission will consider all submissions and aims to publish its final recommendations in summer 2012. Once the Commission agrees its final recommendations it will lay a draft order in both Houses of Parliament. Parliament will then have 40 days in which to consider the recommendations. If both Houses are satisfied with the recommendations, the draft order will be 'made' and the new wards will come into effect at the county council elections in May 2013.