Town Council opts for status quo despite difficulties in finding councillors

Keynsham Town Councillors voted to keep their numbers the same last month even though they are struggling to find people willing to sit on the Council. Currently, the Town Council comprises of 15 members, notionally 5 from each of the three wards. At the last elections in 2011, there were not enough candidates standing in one ward, Keynsham East, to fill the five seats so two subsequently had to be co-opted. In less than two years since the election, one elected councillor has already resigned, causing a by-election last month and another has forfeit his place having not attended a Council meeting in February 2012. Average attendance at the monthly meetings is 11 or 12.

As part of a regular review of local government, the Town Council was asked by B&NES to consider operating with fewer members. Unlike the parish councils in neighbouring South Gloucestershire which have recently been involved in public consultation over similar issues, within B&NES, only issues such as boundary changes require the public’s opinion.  At last month’s Town Council meeting, attended by 11 of the 15 elected councillors, it was felt the current numbers were ‘about right’ and there was no need to change .

Whereas B&NES Council is responsible for education, highways and planning, housing, social services and waste management in Keynsham, the Town Council runs the cemetery, allotments, play and recreation grounds, youth service and annual events such as the Victorian Evening. The Music Festival is run by a separate company on which the Town Council has representatives. Keynsham residents pay an extra £80 a year on top of their Council Tax to fund the Town Council activities, two thirds of which is spent on office and staff costs.  In neighbouring Saltford, the Parish Council costs ratepayers £13 a year.  Unlike B&NES District Councillors, those elected to the Town Council receive no allowance and volunteer their time.