|IWJ: deliberately avoiding|
"Plaid Cymru’s Constituency Committee for Ynys Môn is carefully considering the plans for local government electoral changes on Anglesey. The document presented by the Boundary Commission needs to be thoroughly evaluated in view of the far-reaching proposals contained within it.
"We will not give a knee-jerk reaction like some other parties but give the proposals the consideration they deserve. We will be presenting our response before the deadline early in the New Year."
There is no question that the proposed boundary changes need to be considered carefully and in detail — nobody disputes that. However the issue is why is Ynys Môn only being given four weeks (over the Christmas period too) to consult on them whereas the rest of Wales will have four years? If Ieuan Wyn Jones considers that they should not be responded to in a "knee-jerk" manner and, indeed, that they will lead to "far-reaching" changes then why would he accept that we are only being given four weeks to consult on them?
The fact remains that these boundary changes are being rushed through by the Minster in order to facilitate a postponed election in 2013 under new electoral arrangements designed purposefully to eliminate Independent councillors. This is not how proper, sustainable, organic "democratic renewal" should be brought about. Even Plaid Cymru's Ynys Môn councillors — those who notionally will gain the most from the proposed changes — have taken a principled stand against them. Furthermore Plaid Cymru's former Party Chair, John Dixon, has said unequivocally that he thinks the proposals amount to "rigging the electoral system" and has spoke out against them. Yet it seems clear from Ieuan Wyn Jones' side-stepping response to the Daily Post that he is prepared support a postponement and in so doing is ignoring both his own local Plaid Cymru councillors, and the best interests of Ynys Môn, in favour or securing narrow party advantage at a rigged and postponed local election in 2013.
In the meantime, certain commentators on this blog and elsewhere continue to support the proposed boundary changes and delayed elections on Ynys Môn. Below are the reasons why I feel they are wrong:
- The proposed reduction down to 30 councillors leaves too few for the council to operate effectively. Although a smaller reduction in numbers is warranted, a council of just 30 members will require that, on top of their duties to constituents, virtually all of them will need to take executive and portfolio positions, staff the various committees, attend to statutory obligations on police and fire associations, etc. This will mean in the short-term that being a councillor will become a full-time job; and in the long-term it will simply pave the way for rolling Anglesey up into Greater Gwynedd — something that is not in the best interests of Ynys Môn residents.
- For the above reason, younger people with jobs, mothers with small children etc. will not find it possible time-wise to fulfil their obligations as councillors and will thus be discouraged from standing for election. Reducing the amount of people able to stand for election is not conducive to 'democratic renewal'.
- A reduction down to just 11 new multi-member 'super-wards', spanning both urban and rural areas, could mean that all the elected members in one ward could come from just one small part of the ward (likely the urban parts) and thus be unfamiliar with the rest of their ward. This is not in the best interests of constituents.
- Similarly, these larger wards make it impossible for Independent councillors without Party backing to get elected. For example, the proposed ward of Central Anglesey has 5,829 electors and therefore approximately up to 3,000 households. Independent members will have no chance to canvass all of these households and sending out a leaflet would could cost upwards of £2,000 in printing and postage charges. Again reducing the pool of people able to stand for election is not conducive to 'democratic renewal'.
- As already discussed, why are these proposals being rushed through? The rest of Wales will get four years to consult on their boundary changes, Ynys Môn is getting just four weeks (over the Xmas period too thus effectively making it shorter).
- Postponed elections will not allow issues like next year's council tax rises, cuts to services etc to be discussed and debated, nor will it allow all the Parties and candidates to set out their policy stalls in an election.
- Finally, as the WLGA says, all Welsh counties should be treated equally. The Minister is attempting to introduce an electoral system unique in Wales to achieve his own desired election result. That is wrong.