William Eichler 11 May 2016

District to change structure following referendum

A district council in Dorset will change its committee structures following a referendum last week into its governance arrangements.

West Dorset District Council held a referendum, triggered by a petition of over 6,000 signatories, asking voters: ‘How would you like West Dorset District Council to be run?’

16,534 people voted for the option: ‘By one or more committees made-up of elected councillors. This would be a change from how the council is run now’, and 8,811 for: ‘By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.’

32% of the 80,000 electorate turned out to vote.

The changes, which will be implemented in May 2017, will include a politically proportionate strategy committee to replace the executive committee; this means seats on this committee will be allocated in accordance with party size.

Council leader Anthony Alford said: ‘All councillors across our council will continue to work hard for the people of West Dorset whatever committee system is in place. We look forward to continuing to serve our communities.

‘The costs were regrettable, but we received a petition signed by over 6,000 people and under the law that triggered a referendum which required us to give the rest of the 80,000 electorate the democratic right to decide if they wanted the council to have different committee structures.

‘We did all we could to limit costs and saved about £50,000 by holding the vote at the same time as the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.’

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