A BID to save money by moving to elections held every four years in Wokingham has been rubbished.

Last night (Thursday, January 27) Wokingham Borough Council’s executive committee unanimously decided to move forward with a consultation into changing the borough’s election system to be held every four years.

The idea was hailed by council leader John Halsall (Conservative, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe), as the change could save over £316,000.

And according to the council’s chief financial officer (CFO) it could even save £1 million a year due to the ‘hidden costs of disruption’ associated with an annual elections cycle.

READ MORE: Wokingham Borough to agree council tax policy and reductions for residents

A report on the election change proposal states that ‘in excess of £4 million’ could be saved between 2024 and 2027.

But these projected savings has been rubbished by leader of the opposition councillor Clive Jones.

Cllr Jones (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said: “I don’t believe the scaremongering that the costs of doing that are a million pounds a year, I don’t think that’s true at all.

“He [Cllr Halsall] can’t quantify that, it’s a feeling, and that’s rubbish.

“We would applaud Cllr Halsall for doing a consultation but it must not be biased.

“That £4 milllion cannot be quantified, that’s not the cost of the elections being held each year.

“There are associated costs but it’s nothing like £4 million – that’s scaremongering.

“I would like a full explanation why they think it would cost £1 million a year.”

READ MORE: Council staff grilled over 'chaotic' new school transport arrangements in Wokingham

Cllr Jones went on to say that he prefers the current arrangement, where elections are held each year for three years, with no election held on the fourth year in the cycle.

He said: “My personal opinion is that we should continue to have elections every year.

“It gives the electorate the chance to let the council know whether they are happy with what they’re doing for them.

“If it changes to once every four years people then don’t vote too much on local issues, people vote on what’s happening nationally at the time.

“I’m a strong advocate of having elections every year.”

The consultation into the election change can only begin once it is approved in a vote at a full council meeting which is due to take place in February.

Following the consultation, the change will only be made if two thirds of councillors approve it at a future meeting.

The current system will have to change as a result of a boundary review of council wards conducted by the Boundary Commission for England.

The options include:

  • Retaining the current ward structure of one, two and three member wards but moving to elections every four years
  • Retaining the yearly election cycle but redrawing the ward boundaries, with each area getting three councillors
  • Retaining the yearly election cycle but redrawing the ward boundaries in a different way,  with each area getting one councillor

Cllr Jones said: “I think having three member wards is preferable, because the workload gets spread between three councillors.”