Julie James, MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government
The principle at the heart of democracy is that every person is equal and should have an equal opportunity to effect change through the democratic system. This is fundamental to the political and societal structures within Wales.
Every year sees changes to the population, culture and socio-economic circumstances across communities in Wales. These changes do not occur in a universal way, for example, with some areas experiencing expansion in population while others experience a reduction. The differences resulting from these changes over time have the potential to adversely impact on the integrity of the local democratic system across Wales.
The purpose behind regular reviews of electoral arrangements is to mitigate the impact of constant change by ensuring each local councillor represents roughly the same number of people.
Therefore, in June 2016 the then Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government took the decision that all 22 electoral arrangements reviews should take place and be implemented within the current local government term i.e. in advance of the next elections in May 2022.The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales (LDBCW) are therefore about to complete the last of these reviews.
I am aware a number of members have been approached by constituents about the LDBCW’s recommendations and I thought it may be helpful to set out the current position together with an indication of when Orders are likely to be made.
In relation to electoral arrangement reviews, the LDBCW is responsible for making proposals to the Welsh Government about changes it feels necessary in the interests of effective and convenient local government. This includes changes to electoral ward boundaries, ratios of councillors to electors or name changes to electoral wards.
The Commission has completed its work on 20 of the 22 electoral arrangements reviews. Work on the remaining reviews, is already well advanced, with the Commission is on target to submit final recommendations within the agreed timescale.
To provide local authorities and others with sufficient time to implement any required changes it is intended that Orders to give effect to any recommendations accepted by Welsh Ministers will be made by the end of September 2021.
A key factor in determining the timing of making final Orders is the need to consider the impact on Parliamentary constituencies. The Boundary Commission for Wales (the Boundary Commission) is separate from the LDBCW. It is required by the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended) to periodically conduct a review of all parliamentary constituencies in Wales and submit to the Secretary of State a report showing the parliamentary constituencies they recommend. This work will build upon the structures in place for the local government elections, but can only do so on the basis of completed electoral Orders. The current timetable for completion of the parliamentary reviews means the Boundary Commission will only be able to base its reviews on electoral Orders in place at the end of 2020.
To avoid being in a position where Orders have been made for some but not all areas in Wales my intention is that no Orders be made in advance of 1st February 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on every aspect of society and to enable us to address the challenges presented by this unprecedented situation it has been necessary to prioritise a number of areas for action. This has led to delays in progressing a number of decisions, including those in respect of the electoral arrangements reviews.
However, work is now progressing and I am considering the reviews and the related representations received. I continue to work towards completing this work by September 2021 as planned, but I do not anticipate making any Orders prior to the Senedd elections in May.
I am aware of a small number of reviews which have attracted a significant amount of representations and, as with all of the reviews, I will be considering the points individuals have raised carefully during the coming months to inform my decisions.
I attach an overview of the review process which I hope members will find helpful.
- The process for each review consists of the following:
- Before conducting an electoral arrangements review the reviewing body (the LDBCW) is required to take such steps as it considers appropriate to bring the review to the attention of the mandatory consultees and any other person it considers likely to be interested in the review. If any directions are given by Welsh Ministers then the reviewing body is also required to make the mandatory consultees and other interested persons aware of these.
- In respect of principal area electoral reviews Section 34(3) of the Local Democracy (Wales) Act defines ‘mandatory consultees’ as:
- any local authority affected by the review;
- the police and crime commissioner for any police area which may be affected by the review;
- any organisation representing the staff employed by local authorities which has asked to be consulted; and
- such other persons as may be specified by order made by the Welsh Ministers.
- The reviewing body is required to consult with mandatory consultees and other interested parties on the procedure and methodology it intends to adopt for the review. In particular how it proposes to determine the appropriate number of members for the principal council in the area under review.
Consultation and Investigation
- The reviewing body must consult the mandatory consultees and other interested parties about the electoral arrangements in the area to be reviewed. It must also conduct any investigations it considers appropriate.
- Following the consultation the reviewing body must prepare a report containing details of the review it has conducted and the outcome of that review. This must include proposals for any changes it considers appropriate or a proposal that no change should be made to the existing arrangements.
- The Reviewing body must:
- publish the report electronically,
- arrange for the report to be available for inspection (without charge) at the offices of any principal council with an interest in the review for the duration of the period for representations,
- send copies of the report to the Welsh Ministers and the mandatory consultees,
- inform any other person who submitted evidence to the reviewing body how to obtain a copy of the report, and
- notify those mentioned above of the dates of the period of representations and invite their views on the report.
- The period of representation, otherwise known as consultation may last between 6 and 12 weeks. The reviewing body will determine the number of weeks it considers appropriate in the case of each review.
- Following the period of consultation, the reviewing body must consider its proposals in light of the representations received. It must then prepare a further report which must include:
- any recommendation for change which the reviewing body considers appropriate or, if it does not consider any change appropriate, a recommendation to that effect,
- details of the review conducted and the consultation carried out in respect of the proposals, and
- details of any changes to the proposals made in light of the representations received and an explanation of why those changes have been made.
- The reviewing board must:
- submit its report and its recommendations to the Welsh Ministers.
- publish the report electronically and ensure it is available for inspection (without charge) at the offices of any principal council with an interest for a period of at least 6 weeks beginning with the date of publication,
- send a copy of the report to the mandatory consultees, Ordnance Survey and the Welsh Ministers,
- inform any other person who submitted evidence or made representations in relation to the report to obtain a copy of the report.
- A more detailed description of approach adopted by the LDBCW can be found here
Representation Period to Welsh Ministers
- Following publication of the Final Report there is a six week period during which individuals may submit their views on the report to the Welsh Ministers. During this period, Ministers are not able to make an Order addressing the recommendations within the report.
- Welsh Ministers may make an Order to implement any recommendation, with or without modification, or may decide to take no action.