Tuesday, 31 December 2013

48% of Community Councils seats not contested

Its not often I praise the Tories but they deserve some for pointing out that a total of 45% of community councillors in Wales stood unopposed at last year’s local elections,

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.
“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.”
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

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.
Before the next elections we  need to sort it how and we need our political parties to offer solutions as well as highlighting the problem.


Anonymous said...

Broadly speaking I agree with most of the points raised. Having gone throught the electoral process three times I can't agree with the point about reducing the paper work. All that was required was a proposer & seconder on the electoral role and confirmation that I was eligible to stand. We need to be sure that candidates pass this simple test before an election is held so that we can have confidence in the system. Having signed a number of passport applications I can see that the work that goes into completing that is far more onerous and demanding. I'm sure few people don't apply for a passport because it is costly and time consuming. They apply for it because they value it.

Anonymous said...

In my patch we have three county councillors with about 6,000 electors. At the last election there were two candidates for each seat. The same area is covered by five community councils with five clerks and nearly 60 community councillors. In days of low participation it is no wonder there are so few elections as there are too many councillors and nor enough powers for community councils.