Councillor backs cuts - even if it costs him his seat

BACKING CUTS ... Real Independent Coun George Elsom.
BACKING CUTS ... Real Independent Coun George Elsom.

A LOCAL councillor is backing a bid to slash the number of politicians in South Tyneside – even though it could cost him his own job.

Forum 50, the borough’s Older People’s Parliament, has launched a petition calling for the number of councillors in South Tyneside to be cut from 54 to 36.

The group says the measure, combined with a cut to members’ allowances, would save an estimated £292,000 a year.

But they say council bosses have ‘ignored’ the suggestion, despite the need to make £20m of cutbacks over the next financial year. Now Real Independent Coun George Elsom has given his backing to the move.

The Cleadon Park representative believes the savings should be ploughed back into the borough’s under-pressure library service.

As part of savings, it is proposed to cut the library budget by £242,000 in 2012/13, partly through a reduction in opening hours.

Coun Elsom said: “We should be expanding our library service, not reducing it.

“If we went to the public and asked if they wanted fewer councillors or library cuts, I’m sure they’d support a reduction in elected members.

“I have been a long-time supporter of this, and wrote to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, outlining my views.

“He told me it was a matter for the council, which I felt was a bit of a cop-out.

“I’ll happily sign Forum 50’s petition. I would be willing to put my own personal position on the line for a move which is so obviously in the general good.”

He added: “The council is penny-pinching in the wrong way.

“We should be making libraries our community hubs, because they offer services for both young and old alike.”

Forum 50 launched its petition at Ocean Road Community Centre in South Shields this week.

Members will be out and about in the borough over the coming weeks to generate support for their plans.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul