THE number of councillors representing the Southend borough could be cut to save money.

Council officers are currently examining the possibility of reducing the number of councillors representing the borough’s 17 wards from three to two and are producing a report on the matter, which will be presented to a full council meeting once it has been completed.

The idea was discussed at a public meeting held at St Andrew’s Church Hall in Shoebury on Monday (November 2) when council leader Ron Woodley met residents and other councillors to talk about ways the council could save money.

He believed reducing the number by a third would save £250,000 a year as the council sought to make £12.4m of spending cuts.

He said: “If you look at the cost of the councillors then you have to factor in all the equipment that they get. Computers, telephones and the internet, while there is also the cost of paperwork and of the elections themselves.

“Everybody has got to save money, but why shouldn’t the councillors bear the brunt of the cuts as well, because it can’t always fall on residents and employees of the council?”

He did not feel cutting the councillors would affect local democracy because at one time the council had 13 wards with three councillors, meaning that wards were now smaller than they used to be because of boundary changes with more councillors.

There would always be one councillor available for constituents, provided that both did not take holidays at the same time, Mr Woodley said.

A public consultation will take place before any changes go through and he is seeking the public’s views on the proposals, which may not take effect until 2018.

Mr Woodley said if the changes were given the go ahead, the council seats would be put up for re-election with the two candidates receiving the most votes being elected to the seats.

“It would be interesting to see what residents’ views are. Is two councillors an idea worth pursuing? Would they benefit from the cuts?” he added.