Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Community councils in trouble



What is a boundary?

The dispute over the boundary between two Neath community councils claimed another victim last month. Ann Llewelyn joined fellow councillors Lynne John, Robert King and Martyn Peters in resigning from their community council.

"Victim" might seem an over-the-top description, but it is highly unlikely that any of the councillors involved went into community politics looking for a fight. By far the majority of people who put themselves forward for election want to do some good for the community. They are certainly not paid, at "parish" level. Some may be grateful for recognition, perhaps, but surely nobody's primary aim is territorial gain or defence.

Yet, because these four councillors took one side or the other in a fight over which community council should represent two areas of Neath Abbey, and have come under heavy criticism because of that, they have felt compelled to resign.

In a nutshell, what's the trouble?
This is as objective as we can make it, but it is only a brief summary. For the full story, see the report issued on 28th April 2006 by the Local Government Commission for Wales.

Last year, the Local Government Commission looked at an area of Blaenhonddan, largely consisting of new housing development, at its western boundary with Dyffryn Clydach. The River Clydach forms a natural boundary here. However, although it is easy to walk from Brookfield or Taillwyd to Bryncoch in Blaenhonddan, the road links are with Dyffryn Clydach.

Because of this easier access to community facilities, the Commission initially recommended that the transfer be made. This was backed up by a narrow majority in a simple ballot of residents, of whom around one-third returned voting papers.

Having received representations from MP Peter Hain, AM Gwenda Thomas, both CCs (Blaenhonddan opposed, Dyffryn Clydach supported, the change) and individual councillors, the Commission changed its mind. It has now recommended that there be no change.

Is the obvious answer too easy?
It seems to us that, since a majority of the residents affected have voted for a change, then Brookfield and Taillwyd should be moved to Dyffryn Clydach community, as originally recommended.

If that vote is felt to be unsatisfactory, or unrepresentative, then hold another one which is not.

Let democracy rule!
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