Councillors have voted against a proposal to slash their numbers in Bexley by a third.

The borough would have ended up with 42 councillors instead of the current 63, but the Labour group’s plan was rejected at a meeting of Bexley Council on July 23.

Instead the ruling Conservative group proposed an amended motion calling for an independent review of the borough’s ward margins by the Boundary Commission before the next election in 2018.

This is the earliest any change could take effect.

Though Labour rejected the amendment, they later sided with the Tories in passing the new motion.

Belvedere Councillor Sean Newman put forward the idea which would have cut the number of councillors in each of Bexley’s 21 wards from three to two.

He told the meeting in the council chamber at the Civic Offices in Watling Street, Bexleyheath: "I think we all agree the number of councillors should be reduced, potentially saving up to £300,000 in the next four years.

"I hope this motion, which is intended to be uncontroversial, will be passed by all three parties and will allow us to deliver on our manifesto commitments."

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Bexley's current ward boundaries (image from Wikipedia). 

Crayford Councillor John Davey said: "Councillors should be cut but not by some arbitrary number proposed by Labour.

"Taxpayers might get it cheaper if Stalin or Marx ran the country, I prefer democracy.

"We must do what is best for our residents and ignore knee-jerk solutions."

Following the result, Blackfen and Lamborey Councillor Peter Craske said the council would "put forward a detailed submission" to the Boundary Commission "which will set out why and how the number of councillors could be reduced."

Coun Newman said his group voted for the motion because it was "similar enough" to theirs, but accused the council of "kicking the issue into the long grass."

UKIP’s final vote was split, with St Michael’s Councillor Chris Beazley voting for, Blackfen and Lamborey’s Lynn Smith abstaining and Colyers ward Councillor Colin McGannon voting against.

Coun Beazley claimed increases in Bexley’s population by 2018, when any changes would first be allowed to take effect, could lead to the Boundary Commission recommending more rather than fewer councillors for the borough.

He said: "My concern is with the growth coming into the UK from uncontrolled borders, it could end up being a worse situation rather than a better one."

All three parties pledged to reduce the number of councillors in their May election manifestos.