Second homes contributing to ‘unfair’ slashing of Llŷn councillors
Gareth Wyn Williams, local democracy reporter
A group leader has claimed that the number of second homes on the Llŷn Peninsula has contributed to the area witnessing an “unfair” loss of county councillors.
A recent Welsh Government decision, based on the recommendations of the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales, will see representation in Gwynedd’s chamber fall from 75 to 69 after May’s local elections.
The areas witnessing the biggest hits will be Bangor and parts of Llŷn, with the former blamed on the number of non-registered voters in the university city.
But speaking during Thursday’s full council meeting, one Llŷn councillor suggested that the area’s popularity as a second home destination had also contributed to its numbers dropping in the chamber.
According to the commission, the aim of the exercise – based on registered electors rather than population – was to ensure greater parity in the number of voters in every ward.
But in the case of Llŷn it has resulted in the existing Morfa Nefyn and Tudweiliog wards being merged into one.
Elsewhere, Aberdaron and Botwnnog will also be combined as part of a new “Pen draw Llŷn” ward, as well as Mynytho with Llanbedrog and Abersoch with Llanengan.
Cllr Angela Russell, the member for Llanbedrog and leader of the independent group, said: “Bangor is getting a hit and Llŷn is getting a hit, those are the two real hotspots.
“My ward will now include not just Llanbedrog but Mynytho and part of Llangian going down to Nanhoron, its huge.
“We’ll have 69 councillors doing the work of 75, the workload will be immense.
“What’s unfair, as with Bangor and the students, we’re being hit with the second and holiday homes as they don’t vote. They still count and ask you to do things for them in the same way as everyone else.
“It more than doubles the workload and makes you wonder how you can spread yourself so thinly and do a good job.”
While it is a criminal offence to vote twice at the same election – carrying an unlimited fine – there are currently no restrictions on eligible voters whose secondary but not primary residence is in Wales from voting in Welsh Parliament polls.
They may also vote in separate but concurrent local elections as long as their registered addresses are not within the same local authority area.
According to the Electoral Commission, while electors may be entitled to register at more than one address, they must be deemed ‘resident’ in order to be eligible – which is ultimately a decision for each Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) that the criteria has been met.
Meanwhile, the decision to introduce more multi-member wards was widely condemned by members despite the issue now having been rubber stamped.
Cllr Sion Jones, the Labour member for Bethel, reiterated he would not be standing in May but claimed that such wards with two members sharing the workload “did not work.”
Cllr Catrin Wager, meanwhile, spoke of the drop in the numbers of elected members in Bangor and believed it would result in “under-representation.”
While the city’s Glyder and Dewi will remain unchanged, the remaining Deiniol, Garth, Hendre, Hirael, Marchog and Menai wards will be replaced by the “Canol Bangor” and “Dwyrain Bangor” divisions, which will elect two members each.
The decision was rubber-stamped by Welsh Government ministers despite the protestations of Gwynedd Council.
“It’s very disappointing, clearly there’s a unique demography with a large number of students which don’t register to vote very often,” said Cllr Wager.
“This means there will now be an element of under-representation in Bangor, but there are economic problems and a workload associated with student areas.
“The population of some of these wards will be huge and its a shame that Bangor will lose a portion of its democratic voice.”