Thursday, 15 December 2011

Schism: Ieuan Wyn Jones and Ynys Môn's Plaid Councillors

IWJ: deliberately avoiding
the question
As reported in yesterday's Daily Post, Ieuan Wyn Jones has sought to completely sidestep the question of the whether he supports the postponement of local elections in Ynys Môn or not. This is what he is quoted as saying:

"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.

24 comments:

Jeff Jones said...

The real answer is to postpone all council elections in Wales until 2013 in order to allow the new boundary commission to carry out reviews in all authorities to ensure that all councillors in Wales represent a minimum number of electors. On the other points you make Paul. Ynys Mon is a small council and councils in Scotland of a similar size show that 30 is about right. The only full time councillors should be the members of the cabinet. In an authority the size of Ynys Mon the cabinet should be as small as four or five members including the Leader. Throw in four scrutiny chairs, a chair of audit and a chair of planning. This leaves about 19 backbenchers. More than enough given that most backbenchers are unlikely to attend more than one or possibly two council meetings a week. The key is also to hold council meetings in the evening which should encourage potential councillors of a working age to put their names forward. For years I represented a county council ward with over 4200 electors without much trouble. At the same time I was also employed fulltime as a college lecturer. My predecessor who was a Liberal and represented the ward for over 16 years was a county and distict councillor. All of this before the invention of the mobile phone or the internet which now makes it easier for constituents to contact you. I'm afraid sitting councillors often exaggerate the amount of work and time involved.

Jac o' the North said...

Paul, you are right to draw attention to IWJ's evasiveness on this issue.

You - and other observers - are also correct in seeing these changes on Ynys Môn as a precursor to local government reorganisation.

While I agree with reducing the number of local authorities, the way the Welsh Government is going about it is both devious and shambolic. I would prefer honesty and getting it over with quickly.

Where I feel you raise a wider issue is in suggesting that Carl Sergeant has it in for Independent councillors. Coming from a Conservative this will only raise suspicions about who and what the Independents, so prevalent in rural areas, really are.

I know they're not all Conservatives, but many of them are. And this is a problem from Ynys Môn down to Carmarthenshire.

In that latter county the Independents (containing many Tories) are in coalition with Labour so as to keep out Plaid Cymru, the largest group on the council.

So why do Conservatives, more than the members or supporters of any other party, hide behind the 'Independent' label for council elections in rural areas?

Don't the electors have the right to know the political affiliations and ideological stance of people asking for their votes?

Paul Williams said...

Jeff - thanks as always for your thoughtful comments.

I'm not disputing what you say by any means, but currently YM has 8 members serving on the shadow executive and staffs 20 internal committees according to the website:

http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-democracy-and-elections/council-committees/

In addition members also serve on almost 80 external bodies such as the North Wales Fire & Rescue Authority, WJEC, Betsi Cadwaladr CHC, N.W. Police Authority, Wylfa Site Stakeholders Committee, etc. They are all listed here:

http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/Journals/2011/10/07/councillors-on-outside-bodies-2010.pdf

I stand to be corrected, but assume your ward of 4,200 was an urban ward in Bridgend — it might be more difficult in a mostly rural ward of the same size.

Having said all that, you are undoubtedly correct in your final point!

Paul Williams said...

Jac - although some of the Independents in Ynys Môn may be Conservative-leaning, I know better than most that the majority are not. Many lean towards Plaid, others are completely 'independent', as in politically neutral, and don't want to have to accept a Party whip.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

East Dunbartonshire Council to the north of Glasgow has 24 Councillors only 2 of whom are independents. 8 wards elect 3 Councillors each by STV. I would agree that multi member wards elected by FPTP will disadvantage independent candidates and make it easier for party candidates to win. Just look at Local Authorities in Wales with multi member wards, they are dominated by political parties; compare Caerffili and Cardiff to Powys and Carmarthenshire. Single member wards under FPTP are fairer.

Jeff Jones said...

20 internal committees? Completely bonkers. As the Americans would put it 'If you don't want to so anything form a committee'. It also reminds me of that old song 'Busy doing nothing working the whole day through'. Always remember the old officers adage of giving politicians their box of toys to play with when in reality the real decisions are made elsewhere.

Dave Edwards said...

Whilst I have admiration for genuine Independents, experience in Pembrokeshire leads me to the view that in rural Wales it is more often a convenient cloak for Tories not wishing to draw attention to their political leanings but asking voters to see them as god old local boys.
At the last local elections in Pembbrokeshire 42 members stood as and were elected as Independents .Within 5 days however all but three of them had joined the Independent Political Group(sic), taken all Cabinet posts, all Scrutiny Committee chairs as well as Chair and Vice Chair of the council.All this with no manifesto on which to be judged or a plan to spend the £1billion pounds coming to the county over the lifetime of this council. Unless we can awaken the electorate to this farce we are in for a poor
standard of local government well into the foreseeable future. Multi member wards do tend to eradicate this corrupting of the democratic process and work well in urban settings but in rural areas wards will generally need to be too large to give effective local representation ith members living as much as 20 milesa way from parts of the ward.

kp said...

Well, I am certainly no expert in local politics but just reading some of the comments above makes my blood boil.

Why do we need any of these councillors, what it their purpose and function, what is their point of existence?

I've met them all many times, and hardly a single one has any form of recognised tertiary education whatsoever. And to think we allow these people to sit on committees on our behalf. Someone needs shooting!

Yes we need representation, but not in this form nor in this manner. In this modern world we have a chance to re-design local politics so that it really does serve its purpose, the purpose of the betterment of life for you and me!

So let's embrace the changes the commissioners are trying to bring about and let's tell them they haven't gone nearly far enough!

We don't need thirty, twenty or even ten of them. We need one or two and a whole lot more unpaid, fully electable and accountable community councillors. And anyone else who is interested in entering public service to serve, not to be paid!

Alternatively, let's get rid of these public servants types altogether. In this day and age we can all attend every meeting going just so long as it is broadcast via the internet. Why no allow each and every one of us to have a vote on anything that interests us. Tune in, contribute and vote. What could represent democracy more thoroughly that this!

Insider said...

KP
Now we know your just a bloody Commie.

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Paul - I ask of you just 2 simple questions:

Next year do you intend to put your name forward for the local government elections.

And will the voting paper say Conservative?

Anonymous said...

It's just part of the punishment handed down to Ynys Mon for being so incompetent and greedy, the Councillors are unfit for purpose and the whole establishment has been a cesspit create and supported by the fools we elected.

Paul Williams said...

Ice Cold - those are my intentions, yes.

Anonymous said...

If there is one admirable quality about Paul aka The Druid at least we know where we stand, his openness and honesty are characteristics that have been missing for years. The decent hardworking family has been betrayed and neglected for years, and even today, while we all struggle, we find that we are still paying the price for electing people who are not there for us, but are there for themselves.

We live in an UNEQUAL Anglesey, the elected have everything, but those who voted for them, have nothing.

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Paul, for what its worth I think you would make a very good Councillor, we might disagree on various subjects, but I have known over the years some very good Conservative Councillors, and I think with your business acumen you could be one of them.

kp said...

Pass the sick bag Alice!

Sorry, I mean Alex.

Anonymous said...

Well done Paul for standing by your colours
You should have a good chance of getting elected
Under the multi member ward system. It's time
For a radical approach to cut out the cancer once and for all. Be brave and embrace what's coming.
Gj

Anonymous said...

Anglesey had its chance last may to elect an assembly member who would have fought for Anglesey. Ieuan only considers his parties best interest and not the people of Anglesey. Its now proven thats its our loss here on Anglesey by having not elected Paul to fight our cornner in Cardiff !

Un o Fon

Anonymous said...

BBC Teletext this evening......
""The former Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price has all but written off his party's chances of gaining power after the next assembly election, warning it faces "an extended period of opposition".

He urges the four candidates for the Plaid leadership to have independence in their long-term plan for the party.1""

So are Plaid to become Independant ??--Does Plaid and Ieu therefore support Independence ??==Good News for Independant Councillors ???

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Un o Fon

I think you will find it's called 'democracy' and if I recall young Paul came an able second whilst the majority voted for Ieuan Wyn Jones.

Please explain how its "now proven thats its our loss here on Anglesey by having not elected Paul to fight our [corner] in [Caerdydd].

Anonymous said...

The brain drain started on Anglesey in the early 70's and Adam Price's simple idea of an Independent Wales led by Plaid Cymru only interests the uneducated and those who were unable to leave Anglesey to get a decent job and earn decent money, Plaid Cymru plays with the minds of the dull and uneducated, Plaid Cymru only succeed when they are motivating the fools that keep voting them in, can anyone name any decent Plaid Cymru member who has helped the poor and the needy?

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Anon 20:07 If you think you could get away with such a comment you are very much mistaken. It's a shame that Paul Williams has allowed such racist comment to be associated with his blog.

You say "Plaid Cymru only succeed when they are motivating the fools that keep voting them in." - in Ieuan Wyn Jones case (and the first past the post system preferred by the Conservatives) that would be of those who voted,24,067 at the last Welsh Assembly Elections a majority, being 9,969.

And they are all fools?

As for history do try and read some before making such dumb and unfounded comments like "can anyone name any decent Plaid Cymru member who has helped the poor and the needy?"

Can I suggest Saunders Lewis, David John Williams, Gwynfor Evans, Dafydd Wigley to name just 4 greats of welsh history.

Anonymous said...

'And they are all fools?'

Maybe not, but all claiming social security most definitely so.

We need them not!

Ice Cold in Alex said...

To Anon 8:49 free trade and competition as defined by neo-liberals actually demand we have the 'poor'.

Competition alone means winners and losers, we cant all be winners.

And if the winners don't have compassion for those (whom for various reason) are less fortunate than them, I say we live in a very sad world indeed.

Anonymous said...

The point written about a" brain drain" is very valid, the educated and the young have left us all, and we have nothing here to encourage them to return or to make them stay. This is the reality we face, and will continue to face, for generations to come, we let our own people down, but that's ok, that's what we are good for, ignoring the needy and the desperate, while our own greedy needs are satisfied we watch our neighbour suffer.

I asked my son and daughter if they would ever return, they couldn't lie to me and promise me that they would, this is what we have to offer our children........nothing.