Coastal Glamorgan

This is my name for a new local authority that encompasses what is currently Neath Port-Talbot, Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan. And if we don’t adopt it – or something like it – then Penarth can kiss goodbye to the remotest influence in any decisions of significance for the long-term future.

Sounds dramatic?

That’s because the implications of Penarth, and the rest of the Vale, being sucked into Cardiff (that’s what the new authority will be called – let’s not be under any misapprehension of the name of the new Vale plus Cardiff authority) are fairly dire.

Consider, if you will, this new metropolitan mega-authority. On current figures, it will have a population of 475,324 (348,493 +126,831). The Vale’s contribution is a paltry 26.7%.

Cardiff currently maintains 75 councillors. That’s 1 councillor for every 4,650 electors. The Vale has 47, or 1 per 2,700.

Now I’m not going to defend our generous comparative representation. In fact I’m in broad agreement with Electoral Reform Society Cymru, which wants to reduce the number of local authority councillors and increase the number of Assembly Members. But anyone who thinks that Penarth’s needs – or indeed those anywhere in the Vale – are going to be represented to any significant degree in the new super-authority is seriously misguided.

There are also implications for planning and new housing. Cardiff’s councillors will be licking their lips at the prospect of the Vale’s green fields absorbing much larger proportions of Cardiff’s proposed growth in the coming decades. Why should they risk electoral unpopularity in the few remaining undeveloped parts of Cardiff when they can direct new developments to the Vale? Let’s not forget that the Vale’s representation in the new authority is going to be one-quarter of the total.

And poor old Penarth. With our 30,000 population we’re going to become an insignificant part of the new uber-authority, equivalent in size to Ely plus Llanishen.

So how will Coastal Glamorgan solve these ailments?

The population of this authority will be 406,679 (139,740 + 140,108 + 126,831). The Vale’s contribution in population terms would be 31.2% of the total – but will be a shade under one-third of a triple-authority.  Pulling equal weight in this new authority with former neighbours from Bridgend and Neath Port-Talbot would mean no part having an overbearing influence. Equal representation, not becoming smothered by the city slickers.

But the population of Coastal Glamorgan would be greater than Cardiff. And that could be of economic benefit, because according to some economists, the size of an area’s population (agglomeration) is important in generating added productivity. And why shouldn’t Cardiff go it alone? After all, it’s apparently good enough for Swansea, Powys, and Carmarthenshire.

In terms of new housing, the Vale would be partnered with two authorities that are not experiencing rapid population growth. The housing allocation would be fit for the needs of the Vale plus these two other authorities, not made to fit the needs of a fast-growing capital city.

And as for Penarth. Wouldn’t it be better to be Coastal Glamorgan’s eastern gateway town to the capital city, rather than a nameless, faceless suburb of Cardiffshire?

5 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Equality, Housing, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

5 responses to “Coastal Glamorgan

  1. Emlyn Uwch Cych

    Good points there, although a Neath-Afan-Ogmore-Vale authority would cross four seemingly unbreachable barriers: health board, education consortium, fire brigade and European NUTS.

    I also remain to be convinced how suitable a single LA would be for Cwmllynfell, for example, and Penarth. Talk about chalk and cheese?

  2. Your point about the four unbreachable barriers is the potential show-stopper Emlyn, and one I hadn’t really considered. That’s not to say that non-contiguous boundaries shouldn’t be accepted and, in some cases, welcomed.
    However I don’t accept that Cwmllynfell and Penarth are more different than Cwmllynfell and Porthcawl. Nor, for that matter, should that be a problem in and of itself. Consider Powys: Ystradgynlais and Newtown. Pembrokeshire: Pembroke Dock and Laugharne. Just about every current local authority has very significant demographic differences within its borders.

  3. Paul V.

    Amalgamating VoG with Bridgend and Neath/PT while making a lot of sense would mean that in all probability the Vale would be permanently under the control of a Labour council.
    The question being, how fairly would an area that’s generally seen to be a wealthy and Tory voting be treated by a council dominated by Valley socialists?
    How much of the council tax collected from expensive properties in the Vale would be diverted to the poorer Valley towns?

    Porthcawl residents have been convinced for many years that they are discriminated against and starved of basic amenities by Bridgend CC in favour of poorer, Labour voting communities like Maesteg and Pyle.
    Would the same happen on a larger scale in ‘Coastal Glamorgan’?

    In my opinion being swallowed by Cardiff is the better option.

  4. Interesting analysis Paul.
    Firstly, I agree that the Vale would be initially under the control of a Labour council. But nothing is permanent in politics. Just have a read of Prof Roger Scully’s excellent series on one-party hegemony (http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/2013/10/15/the-history-of-one-party-dominance-in-wales-part-3-1999-2011-hegemony-under-challenge/ and the two previous articles).
    Secondly, an area that’s “generally seen to be… Tory voting” may be an impression, but it doesn’t chime with the facts. You’ll be well aware that the Vale is currently governed by a Labour-Llantwit First coalition. The previous (2008-2012) authority was indeed majority Conservative, but the one before (2004-2008) was a Labour-Plaid coalition. I can’t tell you who ran the 1999-2004 executive (hopefully someone out there can) but the party share of the seats was as follows:
    Conservative 22
    Labour 18
    Plaid 6
    Lib Dem 1 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/vote2004/locals/html/4150.stm).
    Your questions “How much of the council tax collected from expensive properties in the Vale would be diverted to the poorer Valley towns?” is an interesting one. In terms of social justice, all political parties are agreed that a progressive tax system – one that distributes proportionally more income from richer people to poorer – is desirable. The arguments tend to be around the proportion of income that is distributed.
    And if you go to Maesteg or Pyle, take a look around and have a chat to the locals. Do they think they’re the generous recipients of millions from the cash cow of Porthcawl?

  5. One further point, Paul. As you’ll see from this post https://penartharbyd.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/the-anti-democratic-local-government-boundary-review/ it’s crucial that the Single Transferable Vote is implemented in any local authority review. That would have very substantial implications for hegemony in several (current) local authorities.
    And I’m delighted that Plaid and the Lib Dems are sticking to their guns on making this a prerequisite for any reorganisation.

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