Posted: Wed 21st Feb 2024

Local Council Pushes Back Against Proposal to Reduce Membership

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 21st, 2024

A LOCAL council has hit back at plans that could see a reduction in its membership imposed on it. 
Proposals put forward last year could see the Blaenavon Town Council reduced from 12 to 10 councillors. 
It has accused Torfaen Borough Council of imposing a “uniform mathematical formula” based on the number of electors which it says fails to take account of local factors or the contribution of volunteer councillors. 
The borough council, which is the principal authority for the area, has to review the boundaries and electoral arrangements of the community councils in its area. 
Proposed boundary changes in the Henllys area of Cwmbran have already been opposed by its community council. 
Blaenavon Town Council has welcomed the recommendation of the borough council’s task and finish group there should be no changes to its boundaries, but is opposed to the proposal to have just one town-wide ward, rather than the current split between east and west, and reducing its membership. 
In its response to the consultation on the proposals which closes on February 28, it has accused Torfaen, by seeking to impose a member-elector ratio, of failing to recognise that the borough’s six community councils all operate independently of one another. 
In also says reducing the number of councillors will potentially limit the diversity of those serving as councillors and engagement with local democracy as well as the ability of the council, which employs only a handful of staff, to operate as its members will often undertake a number of roles. 
Services and events provided by the town council include school holiday play provision, family and befriending support, swimming and cooking on a budget sessions as well as maintaining CCTV cameras and grant support to local organisations. 
A potential financial saving from axing two councillors, estimated at £416 a year, based on the contribution the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales has said volunteer councillors should be paid towards office expenses, is outweighed by the loss of their contribution to debates in the council chamber and voluntary hours outside of it, the council has said. 
“Due to the limited number of paid staff, active participation from councillors is essential for various tasks such as working groups, project management, and event coordination. The knowledge, skills, and expertise that councillors contribute not only ensure value for money but also provide smaller councils with the manpower and capacity needed to effectively serve their communities,” said the response. 
The council says it is committed to encouraging people to get involved in the community and last year issued a newsletter stating it hopes to encourage candidates to come forward for the next elections in 2027 and stated: “It is only right that you can boot your local councillors out of office if you think they are not delivering!” 
At the last elections, in 2022, nine seats were uncontested and a further three had to be filled by councillors agreeing to co-opt people who put their names forward, but the council said that is a trend across Torfaen and Wales with 62 per cent of seats across the country uncontested. 
It has also highlighted that reducing its membership to 10 would mean Blaenavon, that has a population of 6,016, would be only the fifth town council in Wales with 10 members and it would have one less councillor than towns with smaller populations including Hay-on-Wye, Crickhowell, and even Llanwrtyd Wells, in Powys, which is the UK’s smallest town with just 794 residents. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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