Figures released by the party suggested that 45% of community councillors in Wales stood unopposed at last year’s local elections, totalling 3,600 seats. ans some were not even filed
There are a total of 730 town and community councils in Wales, with 8,000 community councillors representing more than 1.6 million people.
In Wrexham alone, 89% of seats were uncontested – with a fifth of the seats remaining vacant after the election as there was not a single candidate.
Janet Finch-Saunders, the Tories’ Shadow Local Government Minister, said:
“These are astonishing figures showing that in one of the most important tiers of government, so many voters were denied the chance to hold their elected representative to account and elect a town or community councillor.
“Town and community councils in Wales spend millions of pounds every year and there is a considerable democratic deficit if voters are unable to have their say on how this money is spent.
“Being a town or community councillor can be one of the most rewarding roles in local politics where the bond between the electorate and the representative is at its strongest, but these figures suggest that link is broken.”
Unfortunately Ms Finch-Saunders does not appear to offer a solution and it was left to
Stephen Brooks, director of the Electoral Reform Society in Wales, said:
“Strengthening neighbourhood government could give communities greater control over local services, but as the Welsh Conservatives’ figures show, many community councils are falling at the first hurdle.One reason for lack of interest may be the lack of powers given to community councils and the fact that those with political ambitions now seem to go straight to standing for the County council as seen by the seats that now have over 4 candidates standing
“Against the backdrop of collaboration and mergers between Wales’ 22 unitary authorities, the Welsh Government must now launch a review into town and community councils. The review should look at the role of community councils, how they are structured and resourced, and how democratic accountability to voters can be assured.”
There could be a number of ways that I think we can improve participation
- Increase the powers of the Council we really need to make sure that we get our lowest democratic institution working and this may be that they are given more actual work to do.
- Increase the inter-participation between the councils perhaps including some community councillors on county council committees especially after the news that a row has broken out over local authorities in Wales having people who are not elected councillors sitting on at least one committee. Most commonly these include independent members of Standards and Audit committees, but unelected individuals also sit on some scrutiny committees.Unelected voting members are already paid up to £256 a day if meetings they attend last for more than four hours – but under the new rules they could receive the full rate even if the meeting finishes in under four hours.So would it not make sense include community councillors on a non-voting basis who can give the view of their council. in some cases the Local county councillor sits on his or hers community anyway.
- Reduce the age of voting and standing to 16.
- make it easier for people to stand by reducing the paperwork for nominations.
- Consider a publicity campaign 3 Months before the election leafleting every home explaining the role of the community or town council and how to stand.