Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A curious form of 'Democratic Renewal' (updated)

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has come out against Carl Sargeant's proposed postponement of Ynys Môn's local elections in May next year. Despite the specific circumstances of the Welsh Government's intervention in Anglesey County Council, the 22 Welsh local authority leaders who attended the WLGA's Co-ordinating Committee last Friday felt it vital that ALL electors throughout Wales, without exception, should have the right to exercise their right to vote. The WLGA will be writing to the Minister accordingly.

Quite right too — it is a curious form of 'democratic renewal' which denies people the right to vote in a timely and normal manner.

UPDATE: Apparently even the Labour group within the WLGA voted against postponing the poll on Ynys Môn  — which is fairly substantial vote of no confidence in Carl Sargeant's actions from within his own Party.

UPDATE 2: The WLGA's letter to Carl Sargeant AM opposing the postponement of local elections on Ynys Môn:
WLGA letter to Carl Sargeant

Monday, 28 November 2011

The 2013 Ynys Môn Local Election results today

After some weekend number-crunching, here are my predictions for the 2013 local elections on Ynys Môn, assuming that the proposed new boundaries are accepted:

     Plaid Cymru:     11 seats
     Independents:     7 seats
     Labour:              6 seats
     Conservative:     5 seats
     Lib Dems:          1 seat

This would most probably result in a Plaid / Labour coalition, and the installation of Plaid's Bob Parry as Leader and Labour's John Chorlton as Deputy Leader.

Clearly the big winners would be Plaid Cymru, which would explain why Ieuan Wyn Jones promoted multi-member wards as the solution to Ynys Môn's local government problems during the Assembly election hustings. As far as I can see, Labour will not gain as many new seats as they suppose, and will in all probability only win two of the three seats on offer in the new 'Holy Island Port' super-ward.

A closer look at the new proposed boundaries throws up some interesting facts. Below is a map of the current electoral boundaries and the parties which hold them:

Anglesey's current local electoral map
Red: LAB, Green: PC, Blue: CON, Yellow: LD, Grey: IND
Click to enlarge

And this is a map of the new proposed boundaries overlaid on the above current map:

Yellow lines indicate the new proposed boundaries.
Number of Councillors returned by each new ward in brackets.
Click to enlarge

Although a number of current wards are cut into two, including Bodorgan, Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog, Llanfair-Yn-Neubwll and Pentraeth, only one of the current wards is to be split across three of the new wards: Bodffordd. Its almost as if the Boundary Commission was trying to ensure that somebody with a powerbase in Bodffordd could never get elected again...

Friday, 25 November 2011

An electoral enigma.

A little summary of Welsh Labour's position on various electoral issues:

AGAINST: reducing number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 in order to achieve a consistent MP to voter ratio of around 1:76,000 voters.

FOR: reducing number of Ynys Môn Councillors from 40 to 30 in order to achieve a consistent Councillor to voter ratio of around 1:1,750 voters.

AGAINST: any top-down changes to Wales's electoral system without the "agreement of Welsh people".

FOR: top-down changes to Ynys Môn's local government electoral system from single member wards to exclusively multi-member wards without the agreement of Ynys Môn residents.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Why local democracy should be restored in Ynys Môn sooner rather than later

After having already leaked over the weekend his intention to postpone the local elections in Ynys Môn to 2013, the Minister for Local Government Carl Sargeant now officially announces that he is "minded" to do so. His full statement is below.

Some have argued that this is no bad thing; the Commissioners are doing such a good job, they say, lets have another year of them.

I'm afraid I'm not so sure and would instinctively prefer to see local democracy restored on Ynys Môn as soon as is feasible. 

Why? Becasue although the Commissioners have undoubtedly brought about some improvements, there is one important area where they are clearly not making headway and that is in finding the savings mandated in the council's Affordable Priorities programme. Ynys Môn must find £10 million savings over four years, and the Affordable Priorities plan — pushed through by our own councillors before the introduction of Commissioners — was an entirely sensible programme to find £3 million in savings this year in a way which avoided cuts to popular services such as leisure centres, swimming pools, libraries and so on. We now know that the council is £1 million behind in finding these savings, which will almost certainly mean deeper cuts affecting popular services will need to be made next year. And now, seeing how the the local elections will be delayed until May 2013, the decisions on what to cut will be made by unelected Commissioners leaving Islanders with no democratic involvement in the process.

By contrast, were the local elections to proceed in Ynys Môn next May (or shortly thereafter), it would have presented the various candidates and parties the ideal opportunity to set out their stall with regards to what they would cut if elected, thus giving the electorate a powerful say in how the cuts are directed. As it stands, however, there will be no opportunity at all for the public to effectively engage until May 2013 and whatever cuts are made in the intrim will not only be deeper because the Commissioners have failed to deliver the necessary savings this year, but will also be decided upon solely by these same unelected 'technocrats' who are answerable to nobody.

(Tangentially, its instructive to learn that one of this year's largest overspends,  £344,000 in the Education budget reportedly relating to supply staff costs during the senseless dispute at Ysgol Goronwy Owen in Benllech, was another episode in which the Commissioners failed to cover themselves in glory as the sorry saga dragged on un-resolved for months.)
Sargeant statement on YM elections

Follow me on Twitter: @Y_Druid

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Anglesey's new electoral map? (Updated)

40 single member wards replaced with 30 multi-member wards, returning 30 councillors
Click to enlarge

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales has released their "further review" (after their first effort was scrapped by the Minister) into carving up Ynys Môn — this time into eleven multi-member wards returning a total of 30 councillors. An illustration of how this will change Anglesey's council election map is above. The details are below:

Detailed summary of the proposals
Click to enlarge

These proposals will lead to a reduction in the number of councillors from 40 to 30, resulting in a councillor to electorate ratio of 1:1,649 (up from the current 1:1,237). Considering that seven current councillors (20% of the total) were returned unopposed at the last local elections I am not against a reduction in numbers as this can only improve democracy on the Island, however I would note that a Local Authority of just 30 members would become very vulnerable to being rolled-up within a larger super-authority at some point in the future (e.g. Greater Gwynedd).

What does concern me greatly however is the fact that if these proposals are accepted in their entirety, then Ynys Môn will be the only Local Authority in Wales who's members will be entirely returned by multi-member wards. Why should this be so? Well, because in his direction to the LGBCW, the Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant specifically told them to do so:

Carl Sargeant's specific directions to the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales

The charitable explanation would be to suppose that Carl Sargeant believes that introducing multi-member wards might help shake certain incumbents out of what could be termed 'rotten boroughs'. The more cynical explanation is to note the eerie similarity between the above direction to the LGBCW for Anglesey, and Welsh Labour's proposals to replace the current arrangements for electing Assembly Members throughout Wales with 30 two-member (i.e. multi-member) constituencies, with all AMs elected first-past-the-post. The Electoral Reform Society had this to say today of those proposals:

...under the system proposed by Labour, the party would have won 11 more seats - 41 instead of 30, giving Labour 70% of the Senedd on 42% of the vote.
 Steve Brooks, Wales director of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "While this may be good news for aspiring Labour candidates, it's bad news for Welsh voters.
  "Two member first-fast-the-post would rob thousands of voters of a choice and voice." 
He said the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats would have less than a third of seats, despite getting more than half the votes in May.
"That would be damaging for democracy and damaging for devolution"

Anyway, the full report from the Local Government Boundary Commission is below. Members of the public have up until January 3rd to have their say, and can do so by emailing: lgbc.wales@wales.gsi.gov.uk

UPDATE: John Dixon, respected former Chair of Plaid Cymru, has just written the following regarding Carl Sargeant's decision to force an entirely new and different electoral system on just Ynys Môn:

"But is it right to have a different approach in one council area from that being implemente deverywhere else, where the main reason for that difference appears to be to facilitate the election of different people? There is no doubt in my mind that the Minister has acted in accordance with the powers conferred upon him, because those powers don’t seem to require that he provides any reason or argument for adopting a different approach in one area, or place any constraints on what considerations he might apply.
And that’s where my concern lies.  There is a dangerous precedent here, under which the Minister has directly interfered in the work of the boundary commission to instruct them to take a particular approach in Ynys Môn,largely because he doesn’t like the result of the elections there.  I don’t like them either – but I’m simply not convinced that rigging the electoral system is the right way to deal with that problem. "

Isle of Anglesey Further Draft Proposals e

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Local Democracy on Ynys Môn to be denied for another year

BBC Wales are reporting that next May's local elections to Anglesey Council may be postponed for a year. The BBC merely says it is a possibility, but the fact that someone has decided to sneakily leak the story to the media on a Sunday makes it fairly clear that this has actually been decided.

When the Commissioners were first sent into Ynys Môn back in March this year, the Local Government Minister, Carl Sergeant, floated the possibility that Anglesey wouldn't go to the polls until May 2013 (instead of May 2012 like all other Welsh Councils) in order to allow the Commissioners to complete their work and for new electoral boundaries to be put in place on Ynys Môn. However, since then there has been precious little information about whether to not next year's local elections would go ahead or not. In fact, at a Commissioners Board Meeting held in Llangefni on September 5th (which I attended), the assembled Councillors asked the Commissioners present whether the elections would go ahead on May 3rd, 2012 or not — however farcically none of the Commissioners or Senior Officers knew and the Chief Executive was consequently asked to write to Carl Sergeant to find out.

Since then, nothing had been heard… until now. And instead of having an official announcement that local democracy on Ynys Môn is to be suspended for a further 12 months, we are instead informed through the backdoor thanks to a sneaky leak to the BBC on a Sunday.