Vale councillors fear plans to reduce community councils will 'dilute' local voices

Vale of Glamorgan councillors said they fear plans to make major changes to community councils in their county will dilute the voice of local people. A number of Conservative councillors at Vale of Glamorgan Council came out in opposition to the Boundary Commission for Wales' plans at a full council meeting on Monday, April 29.

The plans, which have been endorsed by Vale of Glamorgan Council, will see an overall reduction in the number of community councils across the county, a reduction in the number of town and community councillors, and the creation of some new wards. One councillor called the move "scandalous" and another, Cllr Christine Cave, said it amounted to "throwing dedicated community councillors on to the community council scrapheap".

However other councillors pointed out that many community councils rarely have elections because of the lack of candidates who put their names forward and the Boundary Commission for Wales said its proposals aim to make councils in the county more resilient going forward. One of the main concerns of those opposed to the plans is that the councils which are merging with other councils will have fewer elected members representing local interests. For more news, sign up to our newsletter here.

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Colwinston Community Council, which currently has seven members, will have three representatives when it merges with Llangan Community Council. Chair of Colwinston Community Council, Cllr Ed Lewis, said: "The activity that goes on in Colwinston is quite remarkable for the size of the village.

"If you reduce the number of representatives you reduce the effectiveness of the new council. The new council is going to have seven councillors and there will be two schools in the arrangement whereas Colwinston has only got one school.

"With seven councillors we can just manage to cover putting a governor on to the school and have representation on various bodies around south Wales. Effectively the new council is going to be pushed to deliver the same level of services with a lot fewer people."

The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales published its draft proposals for community councils in the Vale of Glamorgan on September 5, 2023, and a consultation ran from this date until October 30, 2023. A Vale of Glamorgan Council cross-party working group submitted further representations to the commission on the draft proposals during this period.

Under the comission's final review the number of community councils in the county will reduce from 27 to 19 and the number of councillors from 269 to 205. Cllr Cave, who is a county council ward member for Llandow, said: "This will only dilute the voice of local people."

Pump House in Hood road, The Waterfront, Barry.
As well as reducing community councils, the review proposes creating a new Barry Waterfront town council ward -Credit:TRINITY MIRROR

Leader of the Conservatives group, Cllr George Carroll, said: "Let's be clear – these are not full-time paid politicians. They are altruistic, community-minded people who give up their time for free to serve their local areas. At the same time Labour and Plaid are creating 36 more politicians in the Senedd at a cost of £120m.

"This isn't just ironic – it is frankly scandalous." A Welsh Government report on local government elections states that 64% of community council seats in Wales were uncontested in the 2017 local government elections.

The same report states that in the Vale of Glamorgan that year 129 community council seats were elected uncontested and 42 were empty. Labour councillor at Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cllr Mark Wilson, said: "Clearly we have got to think about viability of these councils.

"Some of these councils don't have elections year in, year out for periods of time. It would be good for democracy if they did and I also feel that many of these councils will work closer together."

Plaid Cymru group leader at the council, Cllr Ian Johnson, said the issue of seats being uncontested means people can't choose who represents them. Cllr Johnson, who is also a member of Barry Town Council, said: "This is important.

"In places like Barry or Penarth cities and large towns attract more people and then there is more... political choice for residents. This isn't the case in a number of the towns and villages across the county.

"I don't agree with every single part of this report but this does respond to the challenge we have at hand." Plaid councillor, Cllr Nic Hodges, agreed with his colleague.

He said that although his town council ward is being "gutted" to make way for a new Barry Waterfront ward the council needs to "move on" with the matter. The Boundary Commission for Wales has already submitted its final recommendations to Welsh Government ministers for a final decision.