Friday, December 18, 2009

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats response to boundary change proposals

Speaking in the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council debate last Wednesday, Cllr Frank Little (Cadoxton), said:

"I apologise on behalf of our group leader, Cllr Keith Davies, who cannot be with us today, but he has left me a bit of a history lesson.

"We must not forget the changes that were made at the 1983 district elections, breaking up large multi-member wards, with the specified aim of an improvement in accountability. This was reinforced when the former West Glamorgan County Council was reorganised for the 1989 election.

"We also draw attention to the letter to the Boundary Commission from the Minister for Social Justice and Local Government. Dr Gibbons stresses 'the need to fix boundaries which are easily identifiable and which recognise local community ties'.

"These local ties have worked well, giving greater accountability and democracy here in the county borough, and the county before it, for twenty years.

"The changes proposed by the Boundary Commission increase the number of multi-member wards for no good reason other than fitting a mathematical formula, which the leader of our group on the Welsh LGA claims they do not understand anyway. Some of the resulting boundaries are ridiculous and result in wards being divided by geography.

"Madam mayor, I accept that change is inevitable in ward boundaries, as some communities grow, and some shrink. I also accept that one or two of the existing wards , where there are none of the special circumstances identified in the council's original response, are probably too small to justify a councillor to themselves.

"However, the Commission's proposals disregard the clearly-expressed opinion of the elected minister and would set back local democracy for a generation. I personally prefer negotiation and compromise to confrontation. If the Boundary Commission's proposals were reasonable, I would suggest responding with reasoned amendments. But they are so unrealistic that I have no hesitation in supporting the Council's proposal to reject them outright, and the terms in which Mr Graham's letter of rejection is couched."
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