CHAMPAGNE ON ICE FOR WARDS SHAKE-UP
December 05, 2001
THE executive leader of Bracknell Forst Borough Council has agreed to buy a bottle of champagne for his Labour rivals after their blueprint for reorganising council wards received official backing.
A Local Government Commission for England report recommended Secretary of State John Prescott adopt the Labour group's plans for reshuffling town centre electoral wards.
Labour councillor Mike Beadsley revealed Conservative leader Cllr Paul Bettison had said he would buy the Labour group champagne if they "managed to come up with a half-decent plan".
As good as his word, Cllr Bettison said: "I promised him (Labour group leader Cllr Austin McCormack) a bottle of champagne because he did nothing but sit there and mutter about our proposals, and if that's what it takes to get him going then I'm more than happy to take a bottle of bubbly along to the next full council meeting - I may even ask the Mayor to put it in the agenda!"
Cllr Bettison added: "We're still looking at every detail of the proposal, but broadly speaking, it's pretty much as we requested."
The Labour group submitted its blueprint for the new wards after calling a Tory plan approved by the council in July "weak" and "lacking intellectual rigor".
Published on Tuesday of last week, the report endorses the group's plan for Bracknell town and surrounding areas and Bracknell Forest Borough Council's proposals for Sandhurst and Crowthorne.
The commission said its draft recommendations would provide an improved electoral equality and better reflection of community identity throughout the borough.
The proposals are for 42 councillors for Bracknell Forest - increased from 40 - representing an unchanged 19 wards.
As a result of the report, most of the ward boundaries are likely to change.
Commenting on the proposals, Prof Malcolm Grant, chairman of the commission, said: "At present, the electoral arrangements across Bracknell Forest are significantly unbalanced.
"The worst imbalance is in the Ascot ward where each councillor represents 38 per cent more electors than the district average, while each councillor for the Cranbourne ward represents 44 per cent fewer electors than the district average.
"The aim of our review is to ensure that, as far as possible within each authority, one person's vote should have the same value as another's without disrupting community identities."
Cllr Austin McCormack, leader of the Labour group, said: "The commission has effectively ditched the council's proposal which was drawn up by Cllr Alan Ward in favour of the Labour group's plan which keeps community identities.
"Cllr Mike Beadsley drew up the Labour group's plans by consulting residents, town councils and parish councils and it has paid off.