CONSULTATION has begun on plans to reduce the number of Henley councillors on South Oxfordshire District Council.
The town could have a single electoral ward with three councillors under recommendations made by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.
At present, there are two wards — Henley South and Henley North — and each is represented by two district councillors.
The proposals are designed to reduce the total number of district councillors by a quarter from 48 to 36 and are due to be implemented in 2015.
The commission has backed the recommendation of Henley Town Council to have a single ward rather than three single-councillor wards, called Newtown, Fair Mile and Greys, which the district council proposed.
It said there was “no rationale” for the district council’s suggestion, which would have also meant the town council having three wards instead of the current two, each with eight members. The commission says: “We are proposing a three-member Henley-on-Thames ward incorporating the entirety of the parish. This ward would have three per cent more electors per councillor than the district average by 2018.”
Councillor Will Hall, who represents Henley South for the Conservatives on the district council, opposed the commission’s proposal, saying: “It is better to have one councillor per ward because that way people know exactly who to go to. Three councillors will only confuse the issue.”
Fellow conservative David Nimmo Smith, who sits on the town council and Oxfordshire County Council, said the reduction by one councillor was “regrettable” but that a single ward was the best option.
He said: “When I was first elected to the district council in 1987, the number of councillors for Henley was reduced from six to five and the five of us were in a single Henley ward.
“A single ward means that all the councillors should work as a team to offer the best service to their electorate, which is what we all strive to do in our own ways.”
Henley Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin, a member of Henley Residents’ Group, said the commission’s proposal was “sensible”, adding: “It means we don’t have to change the town council.”
In Sonning Common, it is proposed to continue with a two-member ward but it would lose Kidmore End and would take in the parishes of Eye and Dunsden, Binfield Heath, Shiplake and Harpsden.
Kidmore End would be part of two single-member wards covering the village as well as Whitchurch and Goring.
The commission recommends a two-member Benson ward incorporating the village and Warborough but not Nuffield.
There would be a single-member ward for Watlington incorporating the parish of Swyncombe.
It is also proposed to have a two-member Woodcote and Rotherfield ward comprising the parishes of Woodcote, Ipsden, Nuffield, Stoke Row, Checkendon, Rotherfield Peppard, Rotherfield Greys, Highmoor, Nettlebed and Bix & Assendon.
The eight-week public consultation will continue until January 7. To take part, write to: Review officer, South Oxfordshire Review, The Local Government Boundary Commission for England, Layden House, 7686 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5LG, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The full report is available at www.lgbce.org.uk
lThe commission is also proposing that Oxfordshire County Council reduces the number of its councillors by 15 per cent, from 74 to 63 from 2013. Henley and the surrounding villages currently have two county councillors but that would be reduced to one.