Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
The Group Manager – Business Support presented a report, the purpose of which, was to provide Town & Community Councils with an outline of the process for a full Community Governance Review in Bridgend, to be implemented for the May 2027 Local Elections.
By way of some background information, he advised that the review and implementation of Bridgend Council’s ward boundaries and electoral arrangements by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales (LD&BCW), were implemented for the May 2022 Local Elections.
The LD&BCW review also included some consequential changes in two Community Councils: Brackla Community Council and Porthcawl Town Council; and these were also implemented for the May 2022 Local Elections.
The Group Manager – Business Support added, that Council also undertook a review of the electoral arrangements in Coity Higher Community Council following a formal request from the Community Council, which was also implemented in time for the May 2022 Local Elections.
The last full Community Governance Review was finalised in 2009 and would normally follow a 10-year cycle. The delays to the completion of the Bridgend Electoral Review and the pandemic resulted in insufficient time to undertake a full review in time for the Local Elections in May 2022.
He explained that the key document that starts the Community Governance Review is called the Terms of Reference (ToR). The ToR sets out the proposed timetable and procedures for the review, provides guidance, and sets out the issues that will be considered during the review. It also allows the Council to ensure it is following a set procedure, takes into account appropriate considerations for the review, and allows interested parties to understand how to effectively engage in the review. It also provides the LD&BCW with information as to whether the Council has appropriately conducted the review under the terms of the Act. Further explanation of the ToR was detailed in paragraph 4.2 of the report.
In terms of the electoral arrangements, the review provides the opportunity to consider the degree to which “electoral parity” is achieved across the communities in Bridgend, and across any wards that exist within a community. This is known as a council size policy, and it will consider:
• An approximate councillor allocation per electorate;
• Provision of an overall minimum and maximum number of community councillors for a community council. Historically the minimum number of councillors for a community council has been 7. The largest community council in Wales at present is 24. The maximum size may be dependent on the following factors:
• The existing community council sizes;
• The scale of the activity of the community councils;
• The geography of the Council area; and
• The population density of the Council area;
If amalgamation of two or more communities is recommended confirmed the Group Manager – Business Support, then the existing community councils would be dissolved and a new separate community area would be established. In these circumstances it is usual for the community to be warded to reflect the boundaries of the former communities that have been amalgamated.
The process will take a minimum of 12 months to complete from the publication of the ToR, once it has been formally approved by the Council. The estimated date for the start of the consultation process is the 1 June 2023 and allows for at least 12 weeks consultation at both the initial investigation stage and the draft report stage.
The Group Manager – Business Support concluded his submission, by advising that the preliminary stage will publish the ToR and then invite initial submissions for the Council to consider in drafting recommendations for any changes to both boundaries and electoral administration. The draft recommendations would then be published, with a further consultation exercise being undertaken inviting further submissions. After consideration of any further submissions, the Council will publish the final recommendations and conclude the review. The final stage is the making of the Order to implement any changes to boundaries and electoral arrangements which will come into force for the May 2027 Local Elections.
A Member felt that there should be a push to try and get members of the public to show an interest in being a Town/Community Councillor, as even following last year’s elections, there were still a number of vacant positions on County Borough Town/Community Councils.
A Member felt that any review should be conducted within the relevant timescales outlined in the report and that the review should be adequately guided supported from an administrative perspective, by staff from the local authority.
The Group Manager – Business Support, confirmed that the process and its proposals would be examined more closely and intensely in due course as matters evolved, with the likes of key organisations such as, for example, the Boundary Commission and One Voice Wales. Other local authorities who have been involved previously in this process, could also be consulted he added.
In response to a further Members question, he confirmed that the ToR would include looking at the size of the different electorates and wards once more, as part of any review.
The Leader felt that a progress report should be submitted to the Forum at a future meeting and that it was important that the Clerks of all BCB’s Town/Community Councils are updated on this issue and aware of the possible outcomes arising from it.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.
Publication date: 23/05/2023
Date of decision: 21/11/2022
Decided at meeting: 21/11/2022 - Town & Community Council Forum