I’m delighted to say that the proposed changes to electoral arrangements in the Vale of Glamorgan are to be scrapped. The LGBC underwent a Review of reviews that concluded that while reviews of some local authorities could proceed as proposed, others could not.
in the [following] council areas… the size of the electorate in communities and community wards presents a significant barrier to making proposals that would provide for effective and convenient local government…. Consequently, the only options available to the Commission often result in divisions which either have very poor levels of electoral parity; necessitate the creation of very large multi-member divisions which are not supported by the electorate; or do not reflect local ties… the Commission considers that a completely new review is required under amended legislation [in] the Vale of Glamorgan
Feel free to criticise me for missing this announcement, which was made on 30 March. Or alternatively, criticise the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, which hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to make this headline news. Might this be a result of the criticism of the Commission levied by the Mathias Review?
The Review of Reviews was undertaken in response to the Mathias Review. Of particular note in relation to democracy in Penarth, one of the recommendations of the Mathias Review was:
The Commission should adopt an appropriate methodology for assessing the desirability of multi-member divisions in each authority, as required in section 3(1) of the Ministerial Directions 2009 (4.11).
I regard multi-member divisions as wholly undesirable for the reasons given here. And I would expect anyone genuinely committed to democracy to argue likewise or come up with a thesis more convincing than that some people are disenfranchised by having electorates a few hundred more or less per councillor.
The caveat is that multi-member wards are wholly desirable if elections to them take place under Single Transferable Vote – as they do in Scotland, and as was recommended by the Welsh Government-funded Sunderland Commission (which has vanished without trace from the Welsh Government website). And in that case, they would be a democratic improvement on single-member wards elected first-past-the-post because the results would more closely align with electors’ wishes.
The Mathias Review notes that:
The Welsh Government should move quickly to resolve the immediate issue of what happens to the current cycle of electoral reviews. Unless some early decisions are taken, the Welsh Government will risk failing to meet its own target of ensuring the electoral review programme is delivered to a high standard in time for the 2016 elections.
Given all the excitability that has arisen as a result of the cack-handed LGBC recommendations, it’s conceivable that the review will not even be concluded by 2017, in which case we’ll be using existing electoral divisions.