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


The Red Flag said...

What must not be allowed to happen is what happens in England. There in a full election in multi-seat wards the parties stand as many candidates as there are seats and voters in turn are given as many votes as seats and it is the 'norm' that all three seats in a ward are held by the same party. If your party of choice is Party X and they are standing three candidates for three seats and you've got three votes then you will tend to use all three on them. Very quickly 'personality' drops out of politics because you have so many candidates when a full election takes place. Take what will be Holyhead Port Ward. If the four main parties field three candidates each then you are looking at 12 there before you throw in odds & sods such as the CDA, BNP, UKIP etc etc.

It needs to be curtailed that in multi-seat wards each party can only field one candiodate, with no restriction on the number of independents other than they mustn't use 'Independent Labour' or what ever.

The thing that is good about multi-wards in England is that as well as a 'full slate' every 5 years, the sitting councilor who came third on the full election must re-stand at the end of year 1, the person who came second at the end of year 2, the person who came first at the end of year 3. Nothing year 4. Full slate again year 5.

This means that the council continually evolves to reflect the changing opinion of the electorate.

Prometheuswrites said...

This should be an interesting debate.

One of the things I like about living here is that in the absence of a particpatory democratic process we at least have several elected members we can approach to access our portion of 'representative' democracy.

I like having the choice of a different elected party (or independent) to go to if some of the others appear to be compromised by conflicts of interest (Plaid) or complacency (Labour).

I'm not a 'natural' tory but Mr Isherwood gets my vote every time with his rigourous questioning of dodgy practices and blind eyes at the Welsh Assembly, (and closer to home).

Maybe multi-wards are the way to go - (I've never had any political representation in my life when voting using the first past the post system).

Maybe it would help break the 'thinking of personal/ward interests instead of the interests of the wider community', behaviour exhibited (and critised by C.Sargeant) of some of our local councillors.

And as for a first past the post multi-ward system for National (Welsh) elections - that's just gerrymandering and deserves to be kicked out of play.

Prometheuswrites said...

I'd also agree with Red Flag that a limit on the number of single party members standing for a ward should be in place.

Prometheuswrites said...

Well said Mr Dixon.

Anonymous said...

Multi member wards have there problems. It means a proactive councillor has to cope with 2 or 3 times the number of residents. Leaving quiet/ineffective councillors to sit back for 3.5 years, and wake up just in time for the next election

mairede thomas said...

I agree with Anon @ 22.09 having experienced a multi member ward where 1 Councillor did good and effective work on behalf of the Community yet the other Councillor also claimed the credit. It can be difficult for the electorate to know exactly who was responsible for what.

What Anglesey Council needs is more transparency,that means getting Council minutes onto the website more quickly; having live video recordings of meetings available on the website - and left on the site within an archive section. Other Councils have been doing this for years. It's an essential measure given the history at Anglesey Council - a measure that at a stroke would solve many problems.

But what Anglesey urgently needs is a Council election. I hope the Welsh Labour Party realise they will probably pay a political price on the island if elections are deferred til 2013 as Carl Seargent is reported to be "minded to do". Does Labour believe in democracy?

kp said...

'What Anglesey Council needs is more transparency,that means getting Council minutes onto the website more quickly .......'.

Quite the most sensible thing I have ever read regarding Anglesey politics!

Why, oh why, oh why can this issue not be addressed and resolved today, or tomorrow at the latest.

Democracy in action ... and available for all to see and hear!

Anonymous said...

The shame of this Council for being unfit for purpose, it was destroyed years ago, when politicians had their own agenda and narrow minded, poorly educated Councillors made sure that their priority was to enhance and create their own wish list at the price of democracy.

Now they moan, we have to listen, when the people moaned, the council stonewalled us all. The best thing that happened was the day the Commissioners came, and I hope that they will not fail us, like we were failed for so long.

Democracy died on Anglesey years ago, ask around and speak to the people their voices will tell you how disappointed they have been with this Joke of a Council.

The Red Flag said...

The best thing that happened was the day the Commissioners came,

Hear! Hear!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the commissioners start opening up some juicy scandals soon, lurid planning permissions coupled with hot enforcement notices make titillating reading...bring it on...