The Broads Authority will retain its current membership and procedures for appointment following a Government review of the governance of national park authorities.
A consultation was published by the Government in November 2010 which asked whether the selection process, and membership, both size and composition, of national park authorities could be improved.
In an announcement today the Minister responsible for national parks, Richard Benyon MP, has indicated that the existing system will remain in the Broads. However, two National Parks – the New Forest and the Peak District – will trial a system of direct elections from 2013. If the pilot proves successful other parks could begin electing people to their boards from 2017.
Chairman of the Broads Authority Stephen Johnson said: “Local responses to the Government’s recent consultation did not give wholehearted support to the idea of local elections, and questioned their practicality and cost. The Government has clearly taken this on board. However, we will follow with interest the trials of direct elections by the New Forest and the Peak District which follow the Scottish model for national park authorities. ”
When the Broads Authority considered the matter of direct elections in 2008 it supported the principle but was concerned that the narrow boundary drawn around the Broads posed difficulties, not least in defining who should form the electorate. There are approximately 6,370 people living in the Broads, of whom about 5,600 are adults eligible to vote. However, a tight definition of the boundary would exclude important settlements adjacent to the Broads, such as Beccles and Bungay in Suffolk, Wroxham and Hoveton and Acle, whose population has an interest in the area. These areas are currently represented on the Authority by appointments of Members from the six district councils and two county councils.
The Broads Authority currently has 21 members, nine appointed by the eight local authorities within the Authority’s executive area, ten are Secretary of State appointees and two are appointed from the Navigation Committee.
The Government now plans to consult on the length of service for members of national park authorities. It is recommending a maximum service of eight years. Currently Broads Authority members serve for 10 and those appointed by the local authorities do not have a maximum term. The chair of each national park authority will also now be required to produce an annual report assessing the collective performance of members.