West Sussex County Council could carry out a review of its 11 county local committees (CLCs) after May’s local elections.
CLCs are used to involve residents in decision-making for their area, meeting three times a year to discuss everything from potholes and libraries to children’s services and fire services.
In 2016, it was decided to cut the number of CLCs from 14 to 11, saving £23,400. A working group was set up in June to review the impact of the changes.
The group’s report, put before a meeting of the governance committee on Monday (November 26), included the possibility of reducing the number again, from 11 to seven, to line up with the county’s district and borough councils.
The report also included feedback from nine of the area’s county councillors, along with parish and district councils.
The responses showed that the loss of one of the three Mid Sussex CLCs had not gone down particularly well.
With larger agendas to cover, meetings were longer, with some passing 10pm.
There was concern that the interests of the area’s villages were losing out as meetings were ‘dominated’ by issues involving Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath.
Another concern centred around how well business was covered during long meetings.
The concern was shared by Bill Acraman (Con, Worth Forest), who said there was ‘too much business in too wide an area’.
He added: “When you’ve got a long agenda, towards the end of it people are getting tired and everyone rushes through things as quick as they can because they want to go home.”
Some Mid Sussex meetings have recently been dominated by the campaign to complete Woodlands Meed School, in Burgess Hill.
The working group suggested that, in that case, it would have been better to have called separate public meetings rather than take up the majority of CLC time on one issue.
Paul High (Con, Worthing West), chairman of the working group, said that, while each CLC was run differently, there were lessons they could learn from each other.
Addressing the length of Mid Sussex meetings, he added: “There are ways of making a meeting shorter. They do things at that meeting that, in Worthing, we do outside of the meeting.”
The recommendations from the working group will be presented to Debbie Kennard, cabinet member for safer, stronger communities.