Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales Presentation
- Meeting of Flintshire County Council, Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018 2.00 pm (Item 51.)
- View the background to item 51.
That the presentation be noted.
The Chief Executive introduced Theo Joloza (Lead Commissioner), Matt Redmond (Deputy Chief Executive) and Tom Jenkins (Review Officer) from the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales and invited them to give their presentation on the Flintshire Electoral Review. The presentation covered:
· Who are we?
· Purpose of our presentation
· Scope of the review
· Statutory criteria
· Council size policy - defined - applied
· Electoral ward building blocks
· Single/Multi member
· What we will consider
· Areas of concern
· What will not be considered
· Effective representations
· Where can the Council help?
Changes in Welsh Government (WG) meant that the start of the Boundary Commission’s 10 year programme of reviews had been delayed until January 2017. Recommendations made from the current review of electoral arrangements would need to be reported to WG by Spring 2021 to allow sufficient time for the ward changes to be implemented before the 2022 Local Government elections. Members were given copies of the republished Policy and Practice document reflecting the shorter 5 year programme.
The aim of the review was to propose a pattern of electoral wards for the entire council area and not just where there were levels of electoral inequality, although some areas may require no changes. Detailed explanation was given on the different elements for the Commission to consider in creating the new arrangements. Under the Council Size Policy, Flintshire had been placed in the third of four categories of council which had been designed to harmonise the number of population per Member. After the necessary constraints had been applied, it was reported that the review of Flintshire would aim for 63 Members, noting that a slight variance may be considered if supported by evidence. Although the Commission’s preference was for single Member wards, consideration would be given to representations for up-to-three member wards. Examples of community ties were shared which could be provided amongst supporting evidence.
Existing community areas and wards had been used as the primary building blocks for each electoral ward. The Commission had been granted powers to make changes to those boundaries as a result of creating electoral wards, however, this would only be considered during the draft consultation stage where specific proposals were supported by local Members and the relevant town/community council.
On the timetable for the review, the Council was encouraged to use local knowledge to submit an appropriate scheme at an early stage, within the rules of the legislation and policies, to help the Commission to identify an appropriate solution to the new arrangements.
The Chief Executive thanked the Commission team for the presentation which would also be delivered to the County Forum that evening. He gave a reminder that a review of community ward boundaries had been completed in 2014 and that there was scope to review again as part of this review. In acknowledging the complexities involved, he spoke about the need to develop the best approach to enable officers and Members to work together to develop a workable scheme prioritising those areas of the map with the greatest variances from the proposed County average.
Councillor Kevin Hughes raised concerns that the potential loss of seven Members could lead to an unbalanced solution. He was told that the Commission could only work within the parameters of the legislation.
In response to comments from Councillor Bithell about ‘man-made’ boundaries, it was explained that the review would take in the existing road network and that each ward would be considered on its own merits.
Councillor McGuill asked if the figures for Flintshire took into consideration any future changes arising from the Local Development Plan. It was explained that the legislation primarily required electoral parity on the existing number of electors per Member in the area. Secondary factors such as five year projection figures (to be shared with Members) could form part of the Council’s proposals and may be considered within a reasonable tolerance.
In response to remarks by Councillors Palmer and Banks, it was clarified that variances in respect of Members’ workload and tourism statistics were not part of the considerations.
Following a query by Councillor Paul Johnson, explanation was given on the calculations which determined that Flintshire was currently over-represented.
More clarity was sought by Councillor Peers on the accuracy of figures and how five year projections would be used. An example was given where an option could be put forward to re-draw a boundary using evidence of future developments. Any areas of significant future growth would be addressed through future reviews as part of the rolling programme.
Councillor Carver suggested the possibility of changing ward boundaries to achieve all single-member wards. It was explained that it was the Council’s decision whether to submit evidence in support of this approach. Representations could also be made about the distances travelled by Members to engage with their constituents, as expressed by Councillor Ray Hughes.
The Chairman thanked the representatives for the detailed presentation and responding to Members’ questions.
The Chief Executive said that work would commence on developing a process to enable maximum engagement on a scheme.
That the presentation be noted.