At the beginning of December 2015 we were informed that the money which we are given each year by the national government was to be cut drastically for the year 2016-17 and then removed entirely for the following year. For many councils this would have been devastating news. We have however been preparing for this eventuality for several years now by investing in commercial property in order to provide an alternative source of revenue. We had anticipated that our grant would be removed entirely by 2020. It’s just the timing that has been changed. Nevertheless, it means that we will be unable to freeze our portion of the Council Tax again this year, and we will recommend an increase of just under 2% for 2016-17.
In January we were told by the Boundary Commission that our proposal to reduce the total number of councillors from 60 to 48 had been accepted, and final ward boundaries were confirmed. This means that in May this year all Elmbridge borough councillors will be up for election. The wards will each elect 3 members and all voters will have 3 votes. The candidate who receives the most votes will win a 4 year term, the second a 3 year term and the third-placed candidate will serve for 2 years before needing to seek re-election. I have always supported the reduction in councillor numbers and consider that suggestions by some sitting councillors that the needs of the electorate cannot be served properly by fewer than 60 councillors to be utter nonsense.
I supported that reduction in numbers despite knowing that it could result in my de-selection as a Conservative council candidate. Happily a couple of weeks ago I was adopted as one of the three Conservative candidates for the newly-drawn Cobham & Downside ward. This covers most of my old Cobham Fairmile ward, with the easternmost parts moving into Oxshott & Stoke d’Abernon. My colleagues Mike Bennison and Dorothy Mitchell have also been successful and we will make a strong team with complementary skills and interests. An added bonus is that, for the first time as a Cobham councillor I will be able to cast a vote for myself!