Reduction of Wards and Council Membership: A statement from Council Leader Councillor David Christian MBE JP
‘The Council resolved to reduce the number of Wards from six to four and its membership from 18 to 12 because it recognised that the time had come to establish a new, more entrepreneurial model of local government for Douglas. One that better reflected the demands of a growing Borough in the 21st century, would lead to greater involvement by Members in the Council’s decision-making process and, in reducing Ward numbers to four, would bring about fairer representation and increase competition in elections.
‘In short, we are strengthening the democratic process.
‘Originally the intention was to retain all six Wards, but represented by two instead of three elected Members in each. The Council went on, however, to identify a marked disparity between the Wards. Some, notably Hills and Athol, because of their location and development capability, had grown so large they dwarfed some of the smaller, historic, wards closer to the town centre. That meant that the number of voters represented by Members in some Wards was far larger than in others, which created a noticeable imbalance in representation the Council was determined to address.
‘We were aware of the good work done by a Select Committee of Tynwald prior to the 2016 General Election to the House of Keys, in making voter numbers as equal as possible across all constituencies, including the four in Douglas.
‘We were also conscious that in the current era of global awareness, people do not identify so strongly with the area in which they live, and certainly not when the somewhat archaic Ward name means little, if anything, to them.
‘People in the Isle of Man are, though, generally aware of which House of Keys constituency they live in. It was against this background that the Council resolved to reduce its membership by adopting the four revised House of Keys constituencies as Wards with three Members elected to represent each of them with effect from the 2020 local election.
‘The Council subsequently submitted its proposal to the Department of Infrastructure giving public notice that objections could be lodged by 5th October and none was received.
‘So now we await the outcome of this public inquiry on December 13 and if it reports positively to the Department of Infrastructure, we shall see this new model of local government for the capital of the Isle of Man come into effect in 2020.’