Agenda item

Local Democracy & Boundary Commission for Wales presentation


That the report be received.


The Chief Executive introduced a report on the Local Democracy & Boundary Commission for Wales local review proposals and to seek the Council’s views on what process it would like to follow to prepare and approve a response before the end of November 2019.  He advised that the proposals were subject to constructive challenge and change during the review process and had only recently been published.  There was a 12 week consultation period and a second response to the Commission would be provided before the end of November.  At the end of the consultation period the Commission would produce recommendations for all 22 authorities in Wales and a Final Proposals Report would be submitted to the Welsh Government to be adopted with or without amendment in readiness for the next local government elections which were scheduled to take place in 2022.


                        The Chief Executive referred to discussions which had taken place with Group Leaders to consider initial views on the proposals and how best to formulate a response to the Commission.  He reported that the view of Group Leaders was that too many multi-Member wards were recommended by the Commission, with too much variation within them.  He explained that Group Leaders also challenged why new proposals by the Commission substituted the proposals that the Council had made and which already complied.  Group Leaders also challenged the extent to which the Commission had met its own criteria  and felt that community ‘ties’, identity, and names were being lost in some cases.  Concerns were raised around the non-alignment of community boundaries, the variance in figures across the total member wards where parity had been the objective, and population growth and its differential impacts on member-elector ratios across the County.  The Chief Executive explained that initial views had been shared with the Commissioner by Group Leaders and officers at a meeting earlier today. 


The Chief Executive suggested that during the coming weeks a number of informal meetings be offered to Members to consider the proposals in further detail.  The Chief Executive also advised that where there was evidence of a strong alignment between the Council’s views and that of the local Town or Community Council a joint response could be made to the Commission with greater strength than singular responses.  In summary, the Chief Executive emphasised that the Commission had limited flexibility within the laws and Terms of Reference; a recommendation would be made to the WG; and changes to the current arrangement of local electoral wards would take place by 2022.


Councillor Ian Roberts moved that Council received the report and this was duly seconded.  He thanked the Chief Executive for his comments and Group Leaders for their initial responses.  He felt it was important that Members followed the process as outlined by the Chief Executive and that where there was interest from towns and rural areas that representatives of those Town and Community Councils meet with Officers of the Council to consider the possibility of putting forward a joint proposal to the Boundary Commission.  He commented on the importance of local unity and said the Boundary Commission had asked for as much information and detail as possible and that the joint views of the Council, Town and Community Councils and, political bodies   around historical ties, community links, and ward names did matter. It was important to make   a collective response to the Commission.


Councillor Richard Jones expressed disappointment on the draft proposals published by the Commission for Flintshire and referred to the earlier proposal put forward by the Commission for a single member to represent each ward.  He said the proposal to create three member wards, of which there were none in Flintshire at present, departed from the initial thinking by the Commission and created practical difficulties in terms of representing a ward.  He said threemember wards did not benefit people who worked, were disabled, or were independent councillors. He said that   creating larger geographical areas and electoral numbers, for example up to 7000 people, was easier for a larger political group to manage than for an independent councillor.  Councillor Jones reiterated that larger ward areas and electoral numbers would not benefit residents or councillors.  He expressed the view that the proposals were not fair or equitable for many reasons and did not provide parity.


The Chief Executive advised that the Commissioner had acknowledged the points which had been raised around practicalities, however, the Commission had limited criteria by law and explained that to achieve  parity it was the member/elector ratio across a County that was used as the basis.  The Chief Executive commented that the solution might be to move away from 3 member wards by having more 2 or 1 member wards.


The Chief Officer (Governance) explained that Town and Community Councils could have their own separate ward arrangements beneath the County Council ward.  The Chief Officer went on to explain that Town and Community Council wards would not straddle the boundary of Council wards and provided further detail around the arrangements for Town and Community Council wards.


Councillor Mike Peers said he had asked the Commission for a written definition of the term ‘electoral parity’ which was used in the draft proposals and referred to by the Commission in the meeting held today.  He referred to the proposals which had been put forward by Town and Community Councils which were understood to meet the parity and said representations had been put forward to the Commission on that basis. However, when referring to the draft proposals it appeared that they did not appear to have been considered.  He referred to appendices 2 and 3 of the draft proposals and said there was clearly no electoral parity, and that there should be no confusion between ratio and variance.  He said the Boundary Commission had been asked to reissue the guidelines on the variance to provide clarity going forward.  He continued that appendices 2 and 3 also referred to variance from a county average and the Commission had been asked to confirm the relevant figures for the county average figure currently and for 2023 and the proposed arrangement on appendix 3.  In summary Councillor Peers said he supported the Council’s approach to try to get an agreement and provide evidence where necessary to make the changes required, as detailed in the report.


The Chief Executive advised that if the Council was to move to a proposed model of 65 members it would result in a county average ratio of 1,915 electors per member.  He explained that the Commission’s aim using the model as a guideline was that no Member would be above or below a 10% variation on that ratio figure.  The maximum for tolerance was 25% and, therefore, anything above this variance would not be acceptable to the Commission.


The Chief Executive reiterated that Members would be offered small cluster sessions by area to work through the options and bring back to Council before the end of November for approval.




That the report be received.

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