Ted Pesket, local democracy journalist
Concerns have been raised over the future of lower-level local government in Bridgend after the number of candidates standing for elections at town and community council level proved to be extremely low.
A total of 31 of Bridgend County Borough’s 49 City and Community Council wards were uncontested this year. In the 2017 local elections, 16 wards at community and city council level were uncontested.
Only Brackla Community Council, Bridgend Town Council and Cornelly Community Council have enough candidates for a full election in May.
Merthyr Mawr Community Council member David Unwin said: ‘The future is much more worrying [here] and, I would say, reached a crisis point.
“Of the 20 councils, only three have a full election for all seats, 12 have only by-elections and have just scraped enough candidates to fill the seats; and five councils failed to gather anywhere [near] enough candidates to even operate.
Only one candidate stood for election to the Ogmore Valley Community Council – where 15 are needed for a full council. Bridgend’s lower tier councils are missing a total of 57 candidates.
“We are looking for 57 people who are literally coming off the streets to make these councils work,” added Mr Unwin, who is also running as an independent for Pyle, Kenfig Hill and Cefn Cribwr at county borough level.
“With 734 town and community councils across Wales, we are totally over-governed and the time is obviously right for a radical rethink of how the local level of government works.
“The multitude of relentless protocols and red tape legislation issued by the Welsh Government have drowned community councils and clerks and chief executives simply cannot cope.”
Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) leader after the 2017 local elections, Huw David, agreed the trend was worrying.
He said: “I think that’s a concern.
“There will be work that we all have to do to try to encourage more people to come forward, because this is an important level of local government. I’m sure we’ll all do more in the future, across political lines, to try to encourage more people to come forward.
“It has become more difficult in recent years for various reasons.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Community and town councils are an integral part of local government, working at the most local level. Starting in May, we’ll be introducing a new General Skill Power for eligible Community Councils, giving them more flexibility to improve their communities.
“We have worked closely with Community Councils, One Voice Wales and the Society for Local Council Clerks to develop their capacity, including providing funding for qualifications and training, and encouraging joint working.
“We will continue to work closely with the sector to promote vibrant democratic engagement, strong and appropriate governance and working arrangements, and to ensure Community Advisors are well supported to achieve the best possible outcomes for their communities.”
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