Published: 19:45, 05 January 2022
| Updated: 20:05, 05 January 2022
The political map and battle lines in several council areas across Kent will be redrawn this year with authorities seeing a drop in the number of councillors representing residents.
The Local Government Boundary Commission decides how many councillors should sit on each council and how large their electoral wards should be.
Due to varying population increases in Kent, differences have opened up in the number of electors being represented by each councillor.
To maintain a “good electoral equality” the Boundary Commission aims to keep the number of electors for each councillor within 10% of the average for that area.
In 2022, three councils in Kent are set to see councillor numbers cut by the commission: Gravesham, Maidstone and Tonbridge and Malling.
In Gravesham, the commission has recommended councillor numbers should drop from 44 to 39, and a public consultation on the proposal runs until January 10.
It would also see Gravesham lose two electoral wards and will mean on average a councillor will have 250 more electors on their books by 2027.
Out of the current 44 electoral wards, eight fell foul of the Boundary Commission’s 10% average and the authority felt it time to update the electoral map.
Notable changes include combining the wards of Chalk and Westcourt into a single electorate, and the creation of the Gravesham Town ward, which is currently split into two separate wards.
After the consultation has finished, the commission will publish its final recommendations in May and will be in force before council elections in 2023.
Having last been reviewed by the commission in 2000, Maidstone Borough Council invited the authority to investigate its boundaries last year.
The county town has elected 55 councillors since the council's creation in 1974 but in December broke with tradition and suggested a slash to 48 representatives.
This was not agreed unanimously by councillors as some felt population increases meant further cuts were harsh and even suggested a small reduction to 54, which was refused.
In its submission to the commission, the council said: "The council has not had its size reviewed previously, and analysis shows that there is a significant proportion of councillors not fully engaged in council work."
Similar to Gravesham, Maidstone has eight wards which vary by more than 10% of the average electorate per councillor and these are likely to change under the review. Most notably Park Wood exceeds the average by 26%.
Now the commission has received the council’s recommendation it will compile a proposal of its own and seek a public consultation in the near future.
Much like in Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council asked the commission to review its boundaries due to population changes.
While the council recommended a reduction from 54 to 43, the commission settled on a slightly less severe cut to 44 councillors.
Another drastic change would be seen in the electoral wards, which would be cut from the current 24 to 19. This would mean councillors have nearly 200 more electors in their ward by 2027.
This too was controversial at the time with opposition parties voting against the proposals but was backed by the Conservative majority.
Some of the changes include enlarging the current Wrotham, Ightham and Stansted ward to include the parishes of Trottiscliffe and Addington. The new ward will be named Pilgrims with Ightham.
Mereworth and Wateringbury will be combined into a joint ward along with East Peckham.
A public consultation finished in December and a final report will be published in March announcing the commission’s final decision.