TOWN hall leader Phil Davies says the time has come to consider reducing the number of councillors in Wirral.

His call came as neighbouring Knowsley Council looks set to axe 18 of its members following a Boundary Commission review.

In February last year, a Liberal Democrat bid to cut the number of Wirral councillors was defeated when a meeting of the full council saw Labour and Conservative groups uniting to throw out the plan.

However, Cllr Davies today said the “cost of democracy” on the peninsula needs to be reviewed and questioned whether the borough can afford to continue being represented by 66 members.

He told the Globe: “At a time when we are asking residents to pay more for services, and at the same time cutting those services, I think we need to look at our own offices.

“We need to have the debate again, we need to hear what residents and others think about reducing our numbers.

“I am not at this point advocating we should go ahead, but I have an open mind on the whole issue as part of the wider review of expenditure. I do not rule it in and I do not rule it out.”

He said the Labour administration will be publishing its budget options in September, which will detail proposals for slashing spending by a further £45m over the next two years.

And in the next few weeks, up to 500 council workers will be made redundant after applying for voluntary severance in a cost-cutting exercise.

“The issue of councillor numbers has been coming up regularly at staff meetings. It’s time we - and the other political groups - re-opened that debate,” said Cllr Davies.

Knowsley is reported in the Liverpool Echo today as saying it believed an authority with 45 members split across 15 wards would be the “optimum” size for the council.

Wirral has 66 members representing 22 wards. An online poll by the Globe last February asking if the council should be cut to 44 members saw more than 1,200 readers voting - and 93% said YES.

Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said at the time that he was against any such move: “My experience is that councillors work hard in the community speaking to local groups and helping to improve local neighbourhoods."

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